Two million gallons of raw sewage spilled onto Southern California beaches, closing some 10 miles of coastline to surfers and beach goers for days, officials said Tuesday.
Water quality and sanitation officials said the spillage, which sent raw sewage bubbling up from manholes into a handful of homes, onto the sand and into the Pacific Ocean Sunday, was the worst in about a decade.
“It is definitely one of the largest spills in years. It was pretty significant,” said Bernard Franklin, water quality manager for the Los Angeles County Office of Environmental Health.
A nearly 10-mile stretch of beach from Manhattan Beach to Palos Verdes was expected to remain closed until Thursday or Friday while crews treat and test a football field-sized area of stinking sand and fecal material, Franklin said.
Officials said the spillage was caused by an electrical malfunction at a pumping station in Manhattan Beach, south of Los Angeles, and the failure of a telephone-based alarm system intended to alert authorities.
Only about 200,000 gallons to 500,000 gallons of sewage made it into the waters of Santa Monica Bay, where it will be dispersed naturally. Much of the rest was contained by hastily dug sand barriers on the beach, where solid material was removed by bulldozers and the sand was treated with chlorine.
“We want to make sure the public is protected. We are still waiting for the full results of tests for bacteria,” Franklin said.
Most of those in the ocean in January are surfers but walkers were also told to stay away from the beaches until the health threat was over.