A massive sewage line break and resultant spill that occurred during the weekend in Los Angeles continued to be worked on on Monday following closures of many Los Angeles County and Orange County beaches.
Massive winter storms that drenched the region throughout late December with state of emergency levels of water caused many pipes to be overburdened last week. Late last Thursday, a four-foot section of a 60-year-old concrete sewer line pipe in Carson weakened by sulfuric acid ruptured because of the buildup, sending untreated wastewater spilling out into the Dominguez Channel through a storm drain.
While crews and contractors were immediately dispatched and started setting up bypasses, the spill didn’t stop until 9 PM Friday. According to the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD), 8.5 million gallons of untreated sewage went into the Dominguez Channel, and from there into LA Harbor and the beach areas of the Pacific Ocean.
With sewage now flowing to beaches, officials rushed to close them Friday. Long Beach City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis ordered all beaches closed that day, with beaches ranging from the Rancho Park Verdes in Los Angeles to the recently oil spill ravaged beaches of Huntington Beach being closed by Saturday.
While bypasses were completely set up by New Year’s Day and the affected area flushed out while repair work was done, it was revealed by the LACSD that the burst section was already scheduled to be replaced later this year. With many beaches still closed as of Monday, lawmakers have called or more infrastructure repair action as well as investigations into what happened.
“A sewage spill of this magnitude is dangerous and unacceptable, and we need to understand what happened,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement over the weekend. “The recent storm undoubtedly contributed to the spill, but we need infrastructure that doesn’t fail when it rains.”
The sewage spill is now estimated to be between 6 and 7 million gallons. A spill of this magnitude is dangerous and unacceptable, and we need to understand what happened. The recent storm undoubtedly contributed, but we need infrastructure that doesn’t fail when it rains. pic.twitter.com/OC1h5Mg2vl
— Janice Hahn (@SupJaniceHahn) December 31, 2021
Others noted that the freak occurrence will likely be used to help convince undecided lawmakers in Washington to approve President Joe Biden’s stalled Build Back Better Plan (BBB).
“Democrats are currently looking for anything to help convince [Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and any others who are currently blocked BBB from being passed,” an anonymous Washington lobbyist told the Globe on Monday. “This spill, closing beaches across Southern California due to a corroded 60-year-old sewer line, definitely puts infrastructure more front and center. If they push it and say ‘But what if it happened during summer with tourists?’, that will be a strong point. For BBB opponents, this could not have come at a worse time, with lawmakers returning to Washington now and this playing on all the networks. Those backing BBB have been looking for more finite examples and this one just happened to fall in so conveniently.”
Health officials in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties noted on Monday that beaches are to remain closed until daily testing for bacterial pollutions shows that levels are back down to a legal level. With the leak stopped and repair work underway, levels are expected to normalize soon.
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