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Blocked Line, Power Outage Sends Sewage to 2 Beaches

Sections north of the Ritz-Carlton hotel and parts of Doheny are closed at least until Wednesday.

April 03, 2001|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sewage spills Sunday and Monday caused the closure of about 1 1/4 miles of Orange County beach, including a stretch just north of Dana Point's luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The first spill occurred at 12:15 p.m. Sunday when about 200 gallons of raw sewage overflowed from a Laguna Niguel sewer line blocked by concrete slurry and roots, said Larry Honeybourne, a spokesman for the Orange County Health Care Agency. The sewage flowed out of a manhole near South Peak Drive and Camino Del Avion and into the ocean.

As a result, Honeybourne said, the ocean was closed to surfers and bathers about 1,000 feet in each direction from Salt Creek at Salt Creek Beach Park--a closure that came within 1,000 feet of the Ritz-Carlton.

The second spill occurred about two miles south at 6:15 a.m. Monday when a brief power outage resulting from blown fuses caused a pump station failure in the Moulton Niguel Water District's sewage collection station. As a result, Honeybourne said, about 9,200 gallons of raw sewage--a medium-sized spill--poured into the ocean at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.

As a result, Honeybourne said, the ocean was closed for about a quarter mile in each direction from San Juan Creek.

The Salt Creek Beach Park closure was not expected to have much of an impact on the Ritz-Carlton because the affected area begins about 1,000 feet north of the resort rather than directly in front of it and because the busy summer season doesn't begin until June, said Lisa Poppin, a spokeswoman for the hotel.

Temperatures along the Orange County coast were cool, so only a few people ventured into the surf.

The Ritz-Carlton, which rents rooms for $375-$645 a night, is one of the most expensive hotels in Orange County. It offers ocean recreation activities to guests.

"We are concerned, in general, that [sewage] is an ongoing issue," Poppin said.

Both areas were expected to remain closed at least through Wednesday, Honeybourne said.

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