Guest column: Act of God or mismanagement?


Sure, it is easy and convenient for City Attorney Craig Steele to take the knee jerk position that the city will not pay for flood damage because it is legally considered an act of God.

But we ask that Craig see this through the eyes of the citizens that were harmed by this flood.

Rain is indeed an act of nature (or God).

However, the flood that resulted from that rain can be directly attributed to overt negligence and mismanagement by the City of Seal Beach.

Therefore, the damage from the flood that was inflicted on the citizens of Seal Beach becomes the financial responsibility of the City.

Failure to react quickly when notified of the pump failures is the first example of mismanagement.

The timeline in italics below is from Robert Goldberg:

12/22/16: In response to an “alert” at the West End Pump Station, staff takes Pump #1 off-line. Pump #2 subsequently fails in the first week of January. At the City Council meeting on January 9th, the Interim Public Works Director, Jim Basham, makes no mention of this situation. This is despite a direct question from Council regarding how staff will decide where and when to deploy two rented portable pumps. He makes no mention that these two pumps were used at the Pump Station for a rain event very early the same morning. Three days after the Council meeting (January 12th), flooding occurs in Bridgeport, the SB Shores, and on 1st Street during a minor rain event.  Staff issues press release that afternoon informing the public of the failure of both Station pumps. Flooding happens for a second time on Jan. 20th during a “2-year storm,” and a third time on Jan. 22nd during a “40-year storm.”

During this time the City Council had the obligation to either expedite repairs of these two pumps or had the option to add larger (higher) capacity pumps to temporarily replace the two large pumps (#1 and #2) that failed.

They did not even feel the need or urgency to attempt repairs and instead of opting to protect its citizens the City Council elected to pinch pennies and add only smaller (lower cost) replacement pumps.

They gambled with the safety and welfare and the citizens and we were the ones to lose. What makes this even more tragic is that once the pumps were pulled after the Jan. 22 flood, it took around one week to get the pumps repaired and back in place.

This whole thing could have been easily prevented with a pro-active and involved City Council.

It is standard practice that each piece of operating equipment is required to have a Preventative Maintenance Procedure.

This PM Procedure requires that preventative maintenance be performed at regular intervals per the manufacturer’s recommended schedule and that a log of these activities be kept for inspection.

In order to fully understand the root cause of the flood there also needs to be a public review of both the PM Procedure and the required activity logs.

The only way that the City could be exempt and that the flood could be considered an act of God is if the West End Pumping station was operating with both original pumps at 100 percent efficiency.

Lastly, I need to inquire where Mike Varipapa (Bridgeport’s Councilman) was when the City Council met on Jan 12 and were reviewing available pump capacities prior to the storms in January on Jan. 20 and Jan. 22.

Mike ran on a platform of adding “engineering oversight” to the decisions made by the City Council. Where was his “expertise” when this decision was made?

Allowing the City of Seal Beach to enter the storms with 22 percent of the original pumping capacity reflects the abject failure of that platform.

My home in Bridgeport was damaged by the flood on Jan. 22 and I am holding the City of Seal Beach responsible for this damage.

Larry Totzke is a resident of Seal Beach.

Guest column: Act of God or mismanagement?