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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | Countywide

Beach Remains Closed in Wake of Sewage Spill

May 09, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

A popular two-mile stretch of beach will remain closed at least through Monday following a spill this week that sent 22,500 gallons of raw sewage down the Ventura River and into the ocean, officials said Friday.

The spill occurred Tuesday morning after a pump owned by the Ojai Valley Sanitation District overflowed near Meiners Oaks, said Debra Borsos, a spokeswoman for the county's Environmental Health Division.

Bacterial tests done immediately after the spill and made public Friday indicate the water is contaminated in the Ventura River and in the ocean one mile on either side of where the river empties into the ocean, Borsos said.

A second water sample was taken Friday and those results will be available Monday. Meanwhile, warning signs remained in place between Ventura Pier and Emma Wood State Beach. Shellfish from those beaches should not be eaten and the annual mussel quarantine also remains in effect.

Health officials closed the beaches immediately after the spill, and they will remain closed until bacterial tests show safe levels, Borsos said.

News of the continued closure irked Ventura resident Derek Turner, a schoolteacher who heads the 90-member Full Sail Wind Surfing Club.

"I know Ventura is trying to promote tourism and there is no way we can do that if our water is polluted," Turner said Friday.

A spill during February rains sent 2.5 million gallons of raw sewage from the same sanitation district flowing down the same path, records show.

Stan Greene, a director on the sanitation district's board, said the most recent sewage spill wasn't to blame for the continued closure of the beach.

"The contaminates in the river are probably greater than anything we put in the river," Greene said Friday. Greene said district officials tested water upstream from the pump after the spill and that the results also showed heavy contamination.

Borsos said the county doesn't have an ocean water monitoring program, which means that unless there is a spill or other emergency, ocean waters are not tested regularly.

Posted warnings didn't seem to faze a couple of surfers who were seen Friday afternoon riding the waves.

For updated information on beach closures, call the health division's hotline at 654-2432, or access its Web site at http://www.ventura.org/env_hlth/env.htm

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