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Another Beach Closed as Needles Wash Up Ashore


SUNSET BEACH — Officials closed more of Orange County's coastline Sunday as used hypodermic needles continued to wash ashore while work crews were busy cleaning Sunset Beach, where more than 120 needles had been found a day earlier.

A mile-long span of Bolsa Chica State Beach was closed after work crews found about a dozen syringes there, and officials said other needles were collected as far south as Huntington Beach.

No injuries were reported, and officials said they still had few clues to the source of more than 140 needles collected since Saturday, or even where they might have been dumped.

"There are some vials that have washed up," said Larry Honeybourne, an official with the Orange County Health Care Agency. "With a little luck maybe there's something we can identify and trace back."

The medical waste might have been jettisoned illegally by a passing ship, he said, or could have been carried down area flood control channels and into the ocean by last week's rains.

The storms washed piles of trash down the San Gabriel River and other waterways, officials said, and strong ocean currents Saturday and Sunday pushed some still-floating debris farther down the coastline.

Work crews, including 40 juveniles supervised by the County Probation Department, spent all day combing an otherwise deserted Sunset Beach, where signs warned would-be visitors that the sand was off-limits.

Patti Schooley, a parks district supervisor overseeing the clean-up, said it's not unusual for crews to find a few syringes as the beaches are combed each weekend. But she and other officials said this is the first time in memory that an Orange County beach was closed because of medical waste washing ashore.

"It makes me cringe," Schooley said. "When you find something like this, you just become so disgusted with people. Whether it's medical waste or just trash, it's the same sacrilegious approach to the environment."

Officials said the beaches could reopen today, when health agency workers are scheduled to inspect the areas cleaned by crews over the weekend.

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