High-pressure barriers built in the 1960s to hold the ocean at bay have failed to halt the flow of seawater into South Bay water basins, new studies show.
In addition, huge pools of salt water trapped inside the barriers have continued to move inland, closing dozens of drinking water wells from Manhattan Beach to central Torrance and threatening several others in Carson that were once thought safe.
Water officials have concluded that the two barriers, stretching 13 miles along Santa Monica Bay and Los Angeles Harbor, must be reinforced and expensive cleanups begun if South Bay ground water is to remain potable.
"We're talking about something that could end up costing on the order of $50 million over a period of years," said John G. Joham, general manager of the Central and West Basin Water Replenishment District.
Representatives of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, which operates the barriers, and the replenishment district met Thursday to review possible solutions to the saltwater problem. "Everybody's itching to get going on this," Joham said.