Tsunami of raw sewage forces beach closure

Several million gallons of excrement saturated Los Angeles area, spoiling holiday plans for California’s beachgoers and tourists alike

Between 6 and 7 million gallons of raw sewage erupted into the Dominguez Channel near Los Angeles harbor, the city of Long Beach revealed on Friday, forcing authorities to close down a seven-mile stretch of beaches indefinitely.

The failure of a 48-inch sewer main line in the city of Carson, south of Los Angeles, caused the leak, though it’s not immediately clear what caused the main itself to fail. LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn demanded an investigation by the Sanitation District to discover whether it was caused by “aging or faulty infrastructure,” noting that “a sewage spill of this magnitude is dangerous and unacceptable and we need to understand what happened.”

Hahn suggested the “recent storm undoubtedly contributed to the spill,” calling for “infrastructure that doesn’t fail when it rains.”  

The spill was first discovered on Thursday. The sewage leaked from the busted sewer main in Carson into the Dominguez Channel, which in turn emptied into the Los Angeles harbor, spreading the befouled water along the coast.

City water quality teams have been dispatched from Long Beach and are testing the levels of pollution in the area. The county beaches, including Cabrillo, Point Fermin, White Point Park, Royal Palm, and Rancho Palos Verdes, will remain off-limits for swimming until bacteria levels are measured as safe. Seal Beach in neighboring Ocean County will also be closed.

The sewage tsunami put a damper on many people’s New Year’s plans, with legions of tourists having traveled from opposite ends of the US to swim, surf, and otherwise enjoy the sun and comparative warmth of Southern California. Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro was forced to cancel its 70th annual Polar Bear Swim, which typically attracts hundreds to plunge into the chilly waters on New Year's Day.

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