CA, Orange County - Weekend Sewage Spill Releases 8,000 Gallons...23rd Beach Closing This Year : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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ENVIRONMENT: Weekend Sewage Spills Hit Dana Point, Laguna Beach.

May 16, 2000

BY GARY ROBBINS and KELLY TOKARSKI The Orange County Register

DANA POINT -- The city is trying figure out how a pipeline ruptured over the weekend, releasing 8,000 gallons of sewage that will keep Capistrano Beach County Park closed through Wednesday.

The beach closure was the 23rd recorded in the county this year - one more than the county posted in all of 1999 - and was followed later in the day by a smaller closure in Laguna Beach.

It was not immediately known whether the state will fine either city.

City and county officials say Sunday's first spill occurred before dawn at the intersection of Calle Loma and Calle Fortuna, a residential area where workers had been upgrading a storm drain.

During the weekend, a water line in the storm drain broke.

Officials said the water apparently struck the sewer line, causing it to rupture and release sewage that snaked down to the beach.

"We haven't determined the cause of the sinkhole, and I'm not sure we will ever know," said Bob Warren, director of Dana Point's public-works department.

Later in the day, a sewer line near the corner of Viejo Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach became clogged, causing 200 gallons of sewage to leak downhill into Crescent Bay, one of the city's most popular diving coves.

The cause of the blockage is not known.

Orange County Health Care Agency officials said that 24 beach closures during the first 4= months of the year are disturbing, considering that 22 occurred in all of 1999.

They added that local waters are generally very clean, and that the number of closures fluctuates from year to year.

In 1998, for example, there were 35 beach closures.

"Only three of the 24 closures have involved spills of more than 10,000 gallons of sewage," said Larry Honeybourne, who manages the Health Care Agency's water- quality division.

The county generally regards sewage spills of less than 1,000 gallons to be minor, and those between 1,000 gallons and 10,000 gallons to be of medium size. Spills of more than 10,000 gallons are called big, and those in the millions are considered major.

Sunday's closures were followed Monday by the release of an Orange County grand jury report saying that a more concerted effort should be made to reduce spills and protect beaches between the San Gabriel and Santa Ana rivers. That region runs from the northern tip of Seal Beach, which has had three closures this year, to the southern tip of Huntington Beach, which was closed much of last summer because of a bacteria plume from an unknown source.

The grand jury made the recommendation even though Tom Wilson, a county supervisor, founded the Orange County Coastal Coalition in January 1999 to attack the very problems cited in the new report.

Wilson acknowledged the grand jury's suggestion, and added, "I don't care if a sewage spill involves 60 gallons or 6,000. We've got to stop them.

"And I'm disappointed that the number of closures isn't going down. Tourists who come here, and the people who live here, should be able to enjoy clean water."

Chris Evans, director of the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, said, "I'm not alarmed by the number of beach closures so far. But the sewage spills are unacceptable.

"Last summer's closure at Huntington Beach was a wake-up call that we have to be better stewards of the coast."


-- (, May 16, 2000

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