LOS ANGELES (AP) — About 5 miles of Southern California beaches remained closed Wednesday due to a massive sewage spill that flowed into the Los Angeles River.
A buried pipe near downtown Los Angeles collapsed Monday, causing a blockage and a spill of 2.4 million gallons of raw sewage onto streets and into storm drains that feed into the river, which empties into Long Beach harbor 20 miles downstream.
Crews managed to contain, divert or vacuum up at least 750,000 gallons, but the rest flowed into the river.
About 4 miles of sand in Long Beach and a mile of coast in neighboring Seal Beach were closed to swimmers and waders while health officials tested the waters for bacteria. Health officials must record two consecutive days of test results showing the beaches are safe
“It’s a little bit unlikely that none of it got to the end of the river when you have over a million gallons spilled,” said Nelson Kerr, a Long Beach health official.
The sewage leak was initially stopped Monday night, but another rupture occurred during repairs. It was finally stopped Tuesday and an above-ground bypass system was being built so repairs and cleanup could get underway, said Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of Los Angeles Sanitation.
Warning signs and flags were up along the closed beaches and lifeguards shooed away some visitors.
“Just pure disappointment,” beachgoer Francisco Aleman of Lake Elsinore told KABC-TV. “My little sister, she wanted to come to the beach forever, the whole summer…she gets here and it’s like, you can’t get in, so what’s the point, you know?”
The closure was a financial hit for M&M Surfing School of Seal Beach, which had to cancel classes for 70 students at a loss of $85 each.
“Nobody went out,” owner Michael Pless said. “The bummer is I have people coming from all over the world. I have people from England, Sweden. I had people flying in to meet me.”
Pless said he took some younger students, whose parents had dropped them off, to his home pool and Jacuzzi.
“They didn’t get to surf but they got to play,” Pless said.
The 1929 concrete, tiled-lined pipe that broke was 18 feet underground, while more recent pipes are 80 to 100 feet below, Hagekhalil said.
The top collapsed and choked the pipe with debris, creating an overflow.
The cause of the collapse wasn’t clear.
The pipe had been scheduled for replacement in two years. “It just did not wait for us,” Hagekhalil said.