UPDATE at 11:40 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015: The county has re-opened all affected beaches. See our latest here.
There's a surf spot along Dockweiler State Beach called “shit pipe.”
It lived up to its name as county authorities closed down the beach tonight from Ballona Creek to Grand Avenue in El Segundo as a result of “medical waste” that includes, according to a statement, “tampon applicators and hypodermic needles.” (See video, below.)
Testing also turned up “bacteria levels that exceed state standards,” the county stated. The closure was announced at 6:20 p.m.
Wastewater from the Hyperion Treatment Plant is being temporarily discharged only a mile from shore instead of the usual five miles out. Yeah, that's the “shit pipe” mentioned above.
The reason for that is much-needed maintenance and repairs to said pipe system Sept. 21 through Nov. 2. The plant deals with all L.A. can give it, which is hundreds of millions of gallons of treated wastewater.
However, that wouldn't necessarily explain medical waste or tampon applicators.
The county states that “Los Angeles City Department of Public Works is uncertain of the origin. They also report that LADPW and Ocean Blue, environmental clean–up contractors, are on-site conducting clean-up efforts. Environmental Health Strike Team is also en route to assess the situation.”
The debris could be related to summer rains earlier this month. The closure comes after video of “a concerning number of plastic tampon applicators and other sanitary trash along the high tide line at Dockweiler Beach” turned up on YouTube, environmental group Heal the Bay stated tonight.
Heal the Bay says supporters alerted it to the video, and it appears that the county is reacting to Heal the Bay's concerns.
“Normally Hyperion captures it, but when there are big flows, such as those following last week's storms, some items can get through,” the group's Matthew King told us. “So people need to stop flushing their sanitary items, contraceptives and needles down the drain.”
The organization earlier warned in a statement that moving the Hyperion outfall location could be bad news for Santa Monica Bay beach users:
Heal the Bay is concerned that a temporary outfall location located just a mile offshore – in much shallower, warmer waters — could have potential impacts to human health, animal life and create an increased risk of harmful algal blooms.
It would appear its worst fears have been realized.