UPDATE at 11:35 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015: The county today announced that all beaches affected have reopened. See more below.
You could pay $29 million to live along the shore in tony Manhattan Beach.
If you did, you might expect to experience sea breezes, sunny days and shiny, happy people biking, jogging and skating along the Strand. What you wouldn't expect is to see medical waste washing ashore just feet from your multimillion-dollar digs.
But that's what happened late yesterday as an environmental group warned that a wave of medical waste, which Wednesday night included tampon applicators, condoms and needles, has reached the upscale community south of the city's Hyperion Treatment Plant.
At 6:20 p.m. Wednesday county officials closed Dockweiler State Beach from Ballona Creek in Playa del Rey to Grand Avenue in El Segundo after video captured images of waste that had come ashore.
Water quality tests also turned up “bacteria levels that exceed state standards,” the county said in a statement.
Last night, at 7 p.m., county officials expanded the closure south to the border of Manhattan Beach, at 45th Street. Environmental group Heal the Bay says needles have been found in Manhattan Beach.
El Porto, just south of 45th Street, is one of L.A. County's most popular surf spots. Heal the Bay said in a statement that currents have been moving south, so it's not surprising that this problem has struck El Porto and nearby sands:
Three hypodermic needles were found at 45th Street. The shoreline closure has now extended to include this stretch of beach, with cleanup ongoing.
Heal the Bay has received reports from ocean users stating that they have found similar debris in the water and shorelines at El Porto and other southern sites in Manhattan Beach throughout the last week.
Bacteria in seawater is back to acceptable levels but medical waste still appears to be an issue, the environmental group said. “Two hundred pounds of sewage-related debris” was collected by county-run cleanup crews yesterday, the nonprofit stated.
L.A. Sanitation officials suspect the waste, which we wouldn't normally see in treated wastewater from the nearby Hyperion sewage treatment operations, might have been generated by unusually heavy rains earlier this month.
City officials this month temporarily moved the outfall location for treated wastewater from five miles out to sea to one mile out in order to repair and upgrade the outflow system. Officials said in a statement that the one-mile pipe might have been clogged with old debris because it hadn't been used for a decade:
This debris may have been gathering in that outfall for close to 10 years, as that outfall has been dormant during that time. The peak storm flow from last week may have impacted the screening process filtering these types of items and was compounded by the first flush through the one-mile outfall.
The beaches will remain closed until further notice, the county says.
“If people want to help, then don’t FLUSH condoms, needles and tampon products down your toilet,” Heal the Bay stated. “The treatment system is not designed to process this material. In big flows, some can escape unfortunately.”
UPDATE at 11:35 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015: The county announced that as of 1:09 p.m. today, all beaches affected by the medical waste were open.
Heal the Bay said it was “confident that the water and beaches are safe again,” but it said in a statement it would continue to monitor the beaches:
A multi-agency task force, including L.A. City Sanitation, Beaches and Harbors, Public Health and Environmental Health, determined in a conference call this afternoon that water quality at the affected beaches is satisfactory. This decision was informed by water quality testing results, thorough sweeps and cleanups of affected beaches, surface monitoring at the site of the outfall pipe breach and the repair of the netting on the outfall pipe to prevent a breach of this magnitude from happening again.