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Orange County

Beach Closed by Spill Is Reopened

September 08, 2004|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

A 2.5-mile stretch of ocean in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach that was soured by a sewage spill was reopened to swimmers Tuesday after being closed most of Labor Day weekend.

The Orange County Environmental Health Services Department ordered the beach closed late Saturday after finding high levels of bacteria in water samples collected between Magnolia Street in Huntington Beach and 52nd Street in Newport Beach.

"It was an inconvenience for a lot of people, especially those who wanted to go surfing," said Monica Mazur, a county environmental health specialist. "As of this morning, bacterial levels are back to their normal limits."

Officials believe the contamination was caused by a sewage spill resulting from a power outage affecting pumps at an Orange County Sanitation District treatment plant.

Water dropped from helicopters fighting a wildfire at Costa Mesa's Talbert Nature Reserve may have landed on power lines, leading to sewage being released into the Santa Ana River, instead of four miles offshore, officials said.

The cause remains under investigation, Mazur said.

Some beachgoers who ignored the closure may have experienced respite from record-setting heat, but they paid for it.

"The city and state were actively ticketing people," Mazur said.

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