Police chased people out of the ocean along a one-mile strip of the beach Sunday when a storm drain near 1st Street overflowed, discharging foul-smelling street runoff for about 20 minutes, said Capt. Gary Crum of the Los Angeles County Lifeguards.
"It created a (disproportionate) amount of hysteria for what it was," he said.
Police cleared the beach as a precautionary measure, but the county Health Services Department requires only that an advisory be issued to beachgoers, saying that a potential health risk exists for swimmers within 25 feet of the drain while it is discharging, according to Crum.
Storm drains regularly get clogged by sand and eventually break loose, as the 1st Street drain did Sunday, he said. The discharge dissipates quickly and the health risk is minimal, he said.
"I wouldn't want to drink it or anything," Crum said, "but, by the same token, it's not like a sewer broke open or anything of that magnitude."