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Spill May Keep O.C. Beach Closed

September 06, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

A popular 2 1/2-mile stretch of beach from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach probably will remain closed today while Orange County health officials collect water samples after a sewage spill.

Despite the closure, beach visitors were not deterred on what officials described as among the busiest weekends of the year.

Although signs told visitors to stay out, some toed the water Sunday, and a few dared to enter before lifeguards forced them out, said Huntington State Beach park aide Natasha Nadeau.

Jeff Johnson, another park aide, said the parking lot was almost full Sunday afternoon, with a long line to get in the lot running that runs between Magnolia and Newland streets.

At Huntington City Beach, which has remained open, Marine Safety Lt. Michael Beuerlein said more visitors arrived than on the average holiday weekend. He estimated the crowd at 75,000.

"We have warm weather and warm surf too," he said. "It's a combination of factors that will draw a lot of people to the water here."

Newport Beach tied its record high temperature of 91 degrees; Santa Ana did the same, hitting 104.

Monica Mazur, an environmental health specialist at the Orange County Environmental Health Services Department, said the agency collected ocean samples Sunday to check for bacteria levels and would collect them again today.

The beaches closed run from Magnolia Street in Huntington Beach to 52nd Street in Newport beach.

The causes of the sewage spill and of a power outage Saturday that affected pumps at an Orange County Sanitation District treatment plant are being investigated.

Officials suspect that water used to fight a wildfire in the Talbert Nature Reserve in Costa Mesa might have dropped on power lines, which eventually might have led to sewage being released into the Santa Ana River, instead of four miles offshore.

District spokeswoman Jennifer Cabral said a determination may not be made until late this week.

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