Long Beach. Photo by Jessicacu, in the public domain.
Long Beach. Photo by Jessicacu, in the public domain.

Swimmers may be allowed back into the ocean waters off Long Beach later Thursday if test results look OK after a massive spill of raw sewage.

But the ocean at all coastal beaches in Long Beach and a portion of Seal Beach remained off limits to swimmers and surfers early Thursday morning due to millions of gallons of sewage that spilled from a ruptured pipe near downtown Los Angeles and cascaded to the coastline.

According to Long Beach city officials, sewage from the broken pipe entered the Los Angeles River, which carried it to the ocean.

More than 2.4 million gallons have spilled from the pipe Monday and Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, but officials said the sewage stopped flowing after repairs were made. Nevertheless, officials wanted to be sure no contamination remained before opening the beach areas.

Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of city sanitation, said about 750,000 gallons of spilled sewage had been recaptured, and officials worked to determine exactly how much had spilled.

According to public works officials, the top of a sewer pipe collapsed at about 2 p.m. Monday at Sixth Street and Mission Road. Debris from the collapse fell into the pipe, causing the overflow.

Dr. Mauro Torno, acting health officer for the city of Long Beach, ordered the beach closure, saying the ocean water will be off limits until testing shows the water is safe. Beaches in Seal Beach were closed from the San Gabriel River Mouth to Anaheim Bay, according to the county Health Care Agency.

“This is an old sewer, an aging sewer that was planned to be repaired,” he said. “… This one, we had a plan and it did not wait for us, it collapsed. Our record is very good in the city of Los Angeles. … We spent over $2 billion in the last 10 years in (upgrading) our sewers.”

He said there are about 6,700 miles of sewer lines across the city, and “we haven’t had a major collapse for a long, long time.”

—City News Service

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