Officials closed beaches in Southern California from Orange to Los Angeles counties over the holiday weekend after up to 7 million gallons of untreated wastewater spilled into the Pacific Ocean.
The spill occurred after a series of late-December storms dumped heavy rain on the area. The Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts said in a series of statements that a section of the county-run sewage system “collapsed,” sending untreated wastewater to already overburdened storm drains that lead to the sea, some of which were blocked by debris. The spill originated at the Hyperion Water Reclamation plant, which is located next to Dockweiler State Beach and is the city’s oldest and largest wastewater treatment plant, having been in operation since 1894. Due to the spill, one to two miles of beach near Los Angeles International Airport were closed.
According to the districts, the collapse was reported Friday night in Carson, and an emergency contractor quickly set up pumps to bypass the problem, but sewage continued to make its way to sea the next day.
According to sanitation officials, by New Year’s Day, additional bypass pumps and the last drops of rain had combined to help end the spill overnight.
According to officials in the two counties affected by the breach, the spill caused coastal closures from Huntington Beach to the south to Rancho Palos Verdes to the north.
Long Beach’s beaches and bayfront areas were closed for 7 miles, according to health officials. They stated that reopening the coastline to recreation would necessitate water testing to show safe bacterial levels.
Some of the same beaches were temporarily closed in early October after a pipeline rupture off the coast of Huntington Beach spilled an estimated 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific.
Because of the latest spill, the 70th annual Polar Bear Swim at Cabrillo Beach in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day has been canceled.
Temperatures in the mid-50s have generally kept holiday visitors away from the shoreline, but the frequency of storm-related spills has concerned some leaders.
“As a precautionary measure due to sewage spills reaching the ocean, the LA County Department of Public Health has closed beaches from Long Beach to Rancho Palos Verdes.”
“We will be working with health officials in the coming days to monitor water quality and assess environmental impacts to determine when beaches are safe to reopen.”
“A sewage spill of this magnitude is dangerous and unacceptable, and we must investigate what occurred,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement. “Undoubtedly, the recent storm contributed to the spill, but we need infrastructure that doesn’t fail when it rains.”
According to LACSD, crews were able to finally stop the sewage overflow on Saturday by installing five bypass systems, with three additional bypass systems installed as backup.
The Dominguez Channel, a major storm drainage creek serving the spill area, was also the source of a persistent, foul odor in October. Investigators focused on a fire that occurred in late September at a warehouse that housed wellness and beauty products. They believe the fire unlocked and released some of the products’ chemicals, including ethanol, which then made their way to the channel and are suspected of causing or contributing to the sulfurous odor.