UPDATE: Walter’s obituary in the Daily Bulletin is now online. You can follow the link here.
Walter Edward Garrison, fondly known by all as “Walt,” former Chief Engineer and General Manager of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, passed away on November 6, 2014, at the age of 92. Mr. Garrison was born in Newark, New Jersey, and, at the age of 16, began studying engineering at Cooper Union College. During his studies, the United States entered World War II, and Mr. Garrison volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ultimately promoting to Captain. After the war ended, he returned to complete his engineering degree, graduating in 1948. He was then hired by the Sanitation Districts, a regional agency that currently provides wastewater and solid waste management services to over 5.5 million people residing within 78 cities and unincorporated areas within Los Angeles County. The Sanitation Districts’ governing body is comprised of the mayors of the cities within the agency’s service area and the Chair of the County Board of Supervisors.
During Mr. Garrison’s career, he made many contributions to the agency that will be of great value long into the future. He was instrumental in the implementation of the Sanitation Districts’ water reclamation program in the early 1960s with the construction of the first wastewater treatment facility specifically designed to treat water to a high quality for groundwater recharge. That facility, the Whittier Narrows Water Reclamation Plant, became a historic civil engineering landmark as designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Today, the Sanitation Districts operate 11 wastewater treatment plants and produce over 100,000 acre-feet of recycled water for landscape and agricultural irrigation, groundwater recharge and industrial uses at over 750 reuse sites.
With the passage of state Proposition 13 in 1978, the Sanitation Districts were faced with changing from property tax funded wastewater services to a fee-for-service based program for residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout the Sanitation Districts’ service area. Mr. Garrison was tireless in his efforts to develop and implement a fee-based funding program that, with guidance of local elected officials and input from community groups, provided a foundation for future wastewater management services, which today are among the most cost effective in the country.
Mr. Garrison also played a key role in the commencement of solid waste operations by the Sanitation Districts in the early 1960s. The banning of backyard incinerators by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the late 1950s created a need for regional disposal capacity. Mr. Garrison worked to develop a system of solid waste management facilities to serve the county’s needs that has provided up to 50 percent of the county’s disposal capacity. Today, the Sanitation Districts operate two landfills, three materials recovery/transfer facilities, two refuse-to-energy facilities and three landfill energy recovery facilities.
Mr. Garrison was a widely respected leader in the field of environmental engineering. He served as the President of the California Water Environment Association from 1968 to 1969 and as the President of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies from 1976 to 1977. Mr. Garrison was the author of numerous technical articles and reports and was board-certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.
Mr. Garrison is survived by his wife of 70 years, June, as well as six children, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren.