Dockweiler State Beach. Photo via LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors
Dockweiler State Beach. Photo via LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors

Sanitation officials Monday announced the completion of a pipe replacement project that may have contributed to a spill in which more than a ton of medical and personal hygiene waste washed onto Dockweiler State Beach in September.

Condoms, tampon applicators, syringes and other waste that began showing up on Dockweiler and surrounding beaches on Sept. 23 may have been part of debris that was dislodged from a one-mile back-up pipe that was brought back online while a longer, five-mile pipe that normally serves the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant underwent maintenance.

With the work finished, the water flow at the wastewater plant was diverted back Monday to the original five-mile pipe used to transport treated and disinfected water into the Santa Monica Bay, sanitation officials said.

The one-mile pipe will now only be used in emergencies. Sanitation officials said that in case it is needed again, the pipe has been thoroughly cleaned.

City Bureau of Sanitation General Manager Enrique Zaldivar said the department has “researched, inspected and cleaned every connection” to the one-mile pipe, “be it a pipe or a structure, to ensure that no debris exists in them that would possibly and unexpectedly be ‘flushed out’ in similar future events.”

The completed upgrades on the wastewater treatment plant’s primary, five- mile pipe system included replacing aging pipes and valves and refurbishing five discharge pumps. Crews, who finished the work in six weeks, started at the end of summer and hurried to complete the task before the start of the rainy season.

It was unclear Monday if sanitation officials have confirmed a link between the spill and the maintenance work. Investigations are ongoing into the spill, which prompted a multi-day closure of the affected beaches.

The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is one of four wastewater treatment plants the city owns and operates.

— Wire reports

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