Oral Histories

Interview of James Howe Van Norman

Senior operator at the Hyperion Treatment Plant.
Senior Operator at the Hyperion Treatment Plant
Water for Los Angeles
UCLA and University of California History
Water Resources
Biographical Note:
Senior operator at the Hyperion Treatment Plant.
Basiago, Andrew D.
Van Norman, James Howe
Persons Present:
Van Norman and Basiago.
Place Conducted:
Van Norman's residence at the HuntingtonRetirement Hotel in Torrance, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Andrew D. Basiago, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., History, UCLA.Basiago prepared for the interview by reviewing articles in the Los Angeles Times from the completion of the Hyperion Treatment Plant in 1924 to the present, looked at sources in the Water Resources Center Archives at UCLA, and studied academic histories. He also interviewed William F. Garber, retired chief engineer of the Hyperion Treatment Plant, and Rimmon Fay, a Venicebased marine biologist who has been critical of the plant's adverse effects on marine life.
Processing of Interview:
George Hodak, editorial assistant, edited theinterview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.The edited transcript was sent to Van Norman in February of 1987. He made some corrections and additions and returned the manuscript in April of the same year.Alex Cline, assistant editor, prepared the table of contents, biographical summary, and interview history.David P. Gist, assistant editor, prepared the index.
4 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series made possible by a grant from the Division of Water, Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power, complements the earlier University of California series “Oral History of California Water Resources Development."
Family moves to Los Angeles in 1902; memories of Halley's comet; Van Norman's first job as a bench molder; jobs with Union Iron Works and the Los Angeles City Bureau of Water Works and Supply; Harvey A. Van Norman; jobs as a welder and burner; finding clamshells two thousand feet underground; shipyard and drilling crew jobs; operating a drag-line in 1922; works on construction of Hyperion Treatment Plant and is hired as plant operator; pollution problems in Santa Monica Bay in 1943; temporary chlorination system installed; lack of sewage treatment prior to 1924; aeration installed in 1950; levels of impurities in sewage water; large screens installed at the plant; problems with grease and detergent; living at the plant from 1930 to 1940; Mayor Frank Shaw tries to oust city engineer Lloyd Aldrich; effects of Depression on city employees; Works Progress Administration project at Hyperion; difficulty handling quantity of sewage; the treatment plant in the San Fernando Valley; the Hyperion Energy Recovery System; pollution levels of ocean; land and air disposal of sewage; processed screenings sold as fertilizer; disappointment in 1957 decision to resume dumping sewage in the ocean; A. M. Rawn's concern with contamination from cesspools; beach quarantine from 1943 to 1950; complaints from South Bay cities; analysis of surf during beach quarantine; Ray Goudy's sewage reclamation proposal; Hyperion supplies methane gas for the Ezra F. Scattergood Steam Plant; controversy over damage to Santa Monica Bay marine life; technological progress in Van Norman's lifetime; working on Catalina Island, 1919-20; the 1986 decision to burn sewage as alternative to ocean disposal; personnel changes at Hyperion facility; impossibility of meeting United States Environmental Protection Agency requirements.