Summer Is Over, Clean Your Own Dang Pond

Summer Is Over, Clean Your Own Dang Pond

Photos an LA pond scum cleaner took on the job before he called his boss and quit.
September 10, 2016, 1:30pm

On this week's edition of First-Person Shooter, we gave a disposable camera to a guy named Van who hates his summer job. Van's been cleaning ponds for cash. He found the gig on Craigslist while trying to save up for a trip to Mexico, but it's pretty shitty. He spends his days going to mansions in LA to pick out the green muck that's stuck in rich people's fountains, pools, and other things that contain a lot of bacteria-filled water. ("The bottom of a drained pond smells wretched," he says.)

Van told us that as soon as he finished shooting, he called his boss and quit. Good for you, Van! Enjoy your trip to Mexico. Summer's over, who wants to go in a pond anyway? Here's what else the former-pond cleaner told us about his tenure standing in muddy water this summer.

VICE: How long have you been cleaning ponds?
Only for a couple months. I got the job off Craigslist at the beginning of summer to make some extra cash for a trip to Mexico. I was initially drawn to the headline for the job posting because it read "Echo Park Lake Muck Removal." I called the number and was offered to start the next day.

Do you fix/clean/build other things as well?
Usually just building ponds and other types of water features, but if the bossman wanted to take a weird job and make us do it, he had no problem with that. For example, I got stuck laying tile for two weeks in this old man's backyard because he was a family friend of my boss.


What's the weirdest thing you've found in a pond?
You get used to finding nasty stuff like condoms, hypodermic needles, and beer bottles, but pulling a whole bike out of Echo Park Lake was definitely the coolest thing.

Are the ponds you clean normally at giant mansions?
Yes, the accounts are usually in Beverly Hills or South Pasadena, so I'm typically at massive homes. I saw the biggest house I've ever seen in Beverly Hills. It had four private ponds. I think the least fancy pond we worked on was at an elementary school.

I'm seeing a lot of algae in the photos, what do you with it?
We throw it in the trash. When we work in Echo Park, we usually remove about 150 milk crates of muck from the lake every day. The city doesn't want it for compost because it's so wet and messy.

What'd you do at the end of your day?
Well the day I finished these photos I called my boss and quit over the phone. It was the worst two months of my life and I really just wanted some extra cash to go to Mexico. I've gone back to freelance photo work since quitting. You can see my work on my website and Instagram.

Follow Julian on Instagram and visit his website to see his own photo work.