Photo via LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors
Photo via LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors

Dockweiler State Beach near LAX and Playa del Rey remained closed Thursday while crews continued cleaning up medical and other waste that has been washing up on the sand, creating a public health hazard.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials originally posted closure signs from Ballona Creek south to Grand Avenue in El Segundo, urging people not just to avoid going into the water, but walking on the sand as well. Late Thursday, the closure area was extended farther south to 45th Street in El Segundo.

Health officials said bacteria levels were elevated in the water. But on the beach, crews were picking up debris that included hypodermic needles, condoms and tampon applicators along Dockweiler Beach.

Officials with LA Sanitation, a division of the city Department of Public Works, said they were still investigating the source of the material, but they “suspect” it is the result of last week’s heavy rains inundating systems at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey, forcing a discharge through pipe that had not been used in 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,” according to LA Sanitation. “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.”

Sanitation officials said they first became aware of the debris Tuesday night and have three vessels in the area where the one-mile pipe releases material into the water, “and no additional materials have been observed in the last three days, indicating this is not a continuous source of debris.”

“As of Thursday morning, the debris level has decreased significantly, and cres from LA Sanitation’s Watershed Protection Division, along with Clean Harbors, remain on site and will do so until the beach is clear for public enjoyment.”

Dockweiler is at the west termination of Imperial Highway adjacent to the west end of Los Angeles International Airport. Departing jets often fly low over the sands of the beach.

A Hyperion pipeline that normally pumps wastewater five miles off the coastline is being repaired, forcing the plant to use the shorter, one-mile pipeline.

Officials with the environmental group Heal the Bay have been warning about possible increases in bacteria levels and waste due to the repair project, which is expected to last at least five weeks.

—City News Service

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