Westchester Residents Cautiously Embrace the Argo Drain Environmental Project

The busiest domestic airport in the country has anticipated an overdue revamp for years. The airport has debuted many exciting projects, expected to commence soon. However, the Northside of LAX has been patiently awaiting a makeover since it acquired grant money in the 70s.

 

The Northside LAX development project plans to develop the area commercially and includes a project called the Argo Drain. The Argo Drain, located on Falmouth Avenue, will capture runoff from the airport, purify it, and return it to the groundwater reserves. Although residents understand the drain’s environmental significance, they are unfamiliar with the specific benefits the project will derive.

 

According to Daniel Osztreicher, LA World Airports procurement administrator, the project has taken so long due to the process for approval. He says, “that whole process took many, many years of writing, rewriting, getting approvals, meeting with neighbors.”

 

At the Otis College forum on March 18th, neighbors from all over Westchester and Playa Vista gathered to see first hand what the product of the years of planning had amounted to. The venue, capable of accommodating about seventy people, burst at the seams with three hundred attendees.

 

The public servants did not expect the large turnout and worried that all people showed up to complain or rebel against the plans. Matt Tecle, Field Deputy to the neighborhoods of Westchester, said, “the more people that show up to a community meeting, that means it’s a controversial and contentious topic.” However, Tecle and his colleagues were surprised to find that “everyone was super curious, but also really excited.”

 

The Otis Forum gave residents the history of the project, multiple renderings of the final product, and the chance to voice their concerns.

 

Photo 2: Final site renderings of the Argo Drain with open space above it. Courtesy of the Argo Drain website

 

LA Sanitation was at the forum to explain the specific mechanics of the Argo drain. According to a LA Sanitation representative, the project is designed to divert the first ¾ inches of stormwater runoff from three existing storm drains. The runoff water will then be screened to remove the trash, larger objects, and smaller particles.

 

After the whole purification process, the now clarified water will be stored in an 8.1 million gallon underground filtration system. This system will slowly return the water to the natural groundwater reserves.

 

According to John Dorsey, LMU professor of environmental science specializing in stormwater capture projects, there are two benefits to this project. First, “it will decontaminate runoff,” and secondly, it “rebuilds our coastal groundwater reserves.” Dorsey says, “We rely on that water to help keep seawater out.”

 

Dorsey demonstrated the effectiveness of stormwater capture projects using his previous research on the Ballona Creek rain gardens. In 2015 and 2016, Dorsey’s research team found that “anywhere from about 85 to nearly 100% of the pollutants, depending on what it was, was retained in the garden during these rainstorms.”

 

“Addressing the stormwater runoff, and the water quality issues associated with that, is huge, and it’s definitely a good step forward,” says Annelisa Moe, one of Heal the Bay’s Water Quality Scientists.

 

In addition to the environmental benefits that benefit everyone in LA County, open space for things like recreational fields for are planned to go above the Argo Drain. These fields would be for the benefit of Westchester residents specifically, and the Otis forum was, in part, convened to collect their feedback on the open space.

 

According to Tecle, LAWA received 200 or so comment cards. These comment cards are in the process of being looked over to select the most prominent comments. These comments will be factored into the final proposal to the developers running to operate the open space.

 

Although the comment cards are not available to the public, Tecle could speak to some of the residents’ concerns. Since the open space is currently unused and quiet, “there are residents that live right next to it, and they ask us, rightly, what happens when you have a soccer field there on a Sunday morning at 8 am?”

 

Although Tecle says most of the response has been positive, other Westchester residents still have concerns. The LEARNINGCHORDS YouTube channel, run by Ron, documents changes to the Argo Drain site every couple of weeks.

 

“I think the way they’ve maintained it has been a nightmare,” Ron says regarding the weeds and overgrowth that has dominated the landscape as long as the project has been in the works. Ron supports the project, as long as they’re making the space look better.

 

However, Ron mentioned that he is still concerned about the open space becoming a multipurpose field. Ron thinks the area will cause “more noise, more dirt, more liter,” and the need for additional parking.

 

According to Osztreicher, the next step is submitting the Request For Proposals to the three remaining developers in the running to develop the Northside and Argo Drain open space. Updates can be found on the Argo Drain website and on Ron’s YouTube channel, where he posts weekly. The Argo Drain is anticipated to be completed by 2020, according to the Argo Drain website.

 

Sources:

-   Matthew Tecle: Field Deputy for Mike Bonin- [email protected]

-   Annelisa Moe: Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist- (707) 540-4303

-   John Dorsey: Environmental and Ocean science Professor at LMU- [email protected]

-   Heather Johnson: LA Sanitation Representative- [email protected]

-   Daniel Osztreicher: Procurement Administrator for [email protected]

-   Ron: LEARNINGCHORDS YouTube channel- [email protected]