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O.C. beaches still closed by sewage

Four miles of Laguna Beach shoreline could reopen as early as today. City hires firm to evaluate the cause.

October 31, 2008|Susannah Rosenblatt

Four miles of fouled Orange County coastline will remain closed to swimmers through at least this afternoon after 580,000 gallons of raw sewage gushed from a Laguna Beach pump station early Wednesday, health officials said.

Beaches from Crescent Bay to Camel Point, two miles north and south of the spill, were contaminated with waste. The first results from 15 to 20 water samples taken Wednesday showed evidence of fecal contamination along the shore near Bluebird Canyon Drive, said Larry Honeybourne, program manager with the environmental division of the Orange County Health Care Agency.

"We need a couple days' worth of clean samples before we can open the locations," Honeybourne said.

If bacteria levels remain unsafe, ocean water could remain off-limits through Saturday or later, he said.

The spill is the worst in the county in at least nine years. A failed clamp on a sewer main's air release valve caused 60,000 gallons of sewage to foul Laguna Beach's shoreline in April.

Laguna Beach hired the engineering company Dudek to evaluate what caused a 12-inch pipe to break sometime before 2 a.m. Wednesday, City Manager Ken Frank said. The engineers are expected to submit a report early next week.

One of the station's four pumps is working properly, one is partially working and the motors in the two other pumps burned out after Wednesday's sewage flood, Frank said. Those motors will be replaced by Sunday night.

A special bypass pump was installed Wednesday night as a backup measure; that pump temporarily blocked Glenneyre Street.

Laguna Beach has spent more than $10 million to upgrade its sewer system in recent years and planned to renovate the pump station in February. The city's hilly terrain can make maintenance of sewage infrastructure challenging, Honeybourne said.

Frank said Wednesday's spill was frustrating.

"It's still very disruptive to go to the beach and have signs say, 'The beach is closed, sewage spill,' " he said. "We want to make sure we take all the steps that we can possibly take to make the system as safe as possible."


Rosenblatt is a Times staff writer.

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