Seven miles of California beaches will be closed until next week after 250,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the Los Angeles River Thursday, officials said.
The spill was caused by sewer main line overflow caused by a blockage, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release.
“Water from the LA River terminates in Long Beach and when there are spills, we close beaches, out of an abundance of caution,” wrote Jennifer Rice Epstein, a spokesperson for the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, in an email.
According to the department, water from the Los Angeles River connects to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, meaning pollution upriver can impact the city’s coastal waters.
Epstein said the spill was “rather large” and beaches will likely be closed until at least Wednesday next week.
Long Beach City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis made the call to close all coastal swimming areas in Long Beach due to the sewage spill, the department said in its news release.
The water will be tested next week and once the department gets two consecutive clean samples, beaches will reopen.
Hawaii:Endangered Hawaiian monk seal gives birth as officials close off popular Waikiki beach
South Carolina:21-year-old Marine recruit dies at boot camp, marking fourth death at base in two years
How did sewage reach the river?
Bryan Langpap, a representative for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, said the company had a maintenance crew cleaning a sewer in Downey, about 13 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
“The equipment that they were using to clean the sewer involved putting some equipment down in the sewer itself,” he told USA TODAY. “We’re not 100% sure what happened but that equipment that was down in the sewer malfunctioned and it created a plug.”
When the sewer became plugged, the flow had no place to go and made its way to the street, Langpap said.
The districts got word of the issue around 9:40 a.m. Thursday and sent people out to fix the clog and contain the sewage, he said. It was cleared at 11:20 a.m. and from there, the team focused on cleaning the street.
The sewage that spilled traveled through openings in the curb leading to underground storm drain pipes, which usually lead to rivers. “That’s great for getting rain off the streets so the streets don’t flood but when we have a sewage spill, depending on what happens, sometimes the sewage will get into those storm drains and get to the river,” Langpap said.
One of the team’s top priorities was to prevent any sewage from getting to the storm drains and ultimately, the river. However, an estimated 250,000 gallons did reach the river, he said.
The organization is offering free car washes to residents who had to drive through the spill or whose cars were parked in the area, he said.
More coverage from USA TODAY:
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.