Update: On Wednesday afternoon, July 14, the City of Malibu issued a statement of assurance that local water was not contaminated by the spill: "The City of Malibu monitors beach water quality three times a week for compliance with public health requirements. The most recent samples collected on July 13, 2021, have not shown bacteria in significant quantities to indicate the presence of harmful pathogens for waters within city limits or pose a health threat to swimmers. The city will continue to monitor the levels of bacteria in the water and is committed to ensuring public health and safety."
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a beach closure of Dockweiler and El Segundo beaches this week due to a sewage discharge through pipes from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.
According to information from the county, an estimated 17 million gallons of unfiltered sewage discharged into the ocean, affecting El Segundo and Dockweiler beaches. Malibu beaches were not affected by the sewage leak, although the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation issued a statement on social media alluding to the fact that, without testing, it was not possible to be sure which beaches were impacted.
“This contamination could be more widespread than we know, meaning loved surf spots like Topanga & Sunset Point could be at risk as well. We don’t know where this ended up, the safest route is to avoid water contact in SM Bay until test results show that beaches are safe for swimming,” the Surfrider post stated.
The nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay said the spillage occurred between Sunday evening, July 11, and early Monday morning, July 12, posting the information on Instagram and Twitter before LA County got the news out. Shelly Luce, president and CEO of Heal the Bay, said, during an interview on Instagram, the county needs to be more coordinated to inform the public.
“What we have is a sewage spill that occurred over ten or twelve hours and it wasn’t for another five hours that people were notified and this beach was closed to the public, that’s too long,” Luce said. “A press release posted on the LA County Department of Public Health, on the government website, is not enough. I really think that it’s important to put better protocols in place, we can always improve how we reach out to the public.”
Luce recommended staying off the affected beaches until they receive test results.
“We can’t really clean this up. It does dissipate naturally due to currents, wind and wave action, but the main thing for us to do is to keep an eye on the test results,” Luce said.
Luce said she was not concerned about the spillage reaching the shore and said it’s less likely to affect other beaches. LA County said the affected beaches remain closed until water samples are confirmed negative for bacteria.
On Tuesday afternoon, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn issued a press release stating she was unhappy with the handling of the spill.
“The public had little to no information about it for hours,” Hahn’s statement read in part. “We need answers from LA City Sanitation about what went wrong and led to this massive spill, but we also need to recognize that LA County Public Health did not effectively communicate with the public and could have put swimmers in danger.”