Beaches in Long Beach and elsewhere in Los Angeles and Orange counties were closed Friday after as much as 4 million gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the Dominguez Channel, officials said.
According to the city of Long Beach, the spill of 2 million to 4 million gallons of waste was caused by the failure of a 48-inch sewer main in Carson on Thursday. The channel runs into Los Angeles Harbor.
The closed beaches include Cabrillo, Point Fermin, White Point, Rancho Palos Verdes and Royal Palms. They will remain closed until bacteria testing shows the water to be at safe levels. All swimming beaches in Long Beach are also closed, city officials said, and Seal Beach’s Main Beach is also off-limits.
“For their safety, the community is encouraged to pay close attention to any warning signs posted at the beach,” Long Beach said in a statement.
The Dominguez Channel was the site of another environmental crisis earlier this year. Beginning in October, thousands complained about a noxious smell coming from the creek that lasted for weeks.
Regulators later said a fire at a Carson warehouse that stored beauty and wellness products probably caused the foul odor.
Officials on Friday said they were increasingly worried about the spill.
“A sewage spill of this magnitude is dangerous and unacceptable, and we need to understand what happened,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said.
“The recent storm undoubtedly contributed to the spill, but we need infrastructure that doesn’t fail when it rains. I am calling on L.A. County sanitation districts to do a full investigation into the cause of this spill and whether aging or faulty infrastructure was involved.”
On New Year’s Eve, some visitors said they were “bummed out” to miss dipping their feet in the Pacific Ocean, having braved airline chaos and threats of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus to visit friends and family for the holidays in California.
“You come all this way and you don’t get to play in the sand or the ocean? That doesn’t seem fair,” said Sandi Williams, who had traveled from suburban Massachusetts. “We were so looking forward to this change in scenery, but like everywhere, there’s catastrophe.”
Steve Williams, her high school-age son, had hoped for an early morning swim on the first day of 2022 but shelved his plans, thinking instead of sleeping in. “Now I can stay up late and do the countdown.” But, he said, “I would rather be in the water and take a picture of that.”
Sara Patel, a friend of the Williams family who has lived in Los Angeles County for several decades, said she usually takes out-of-town visitors on a picturesque drive, making stops to get photographs and coffee.
“People come to SoCal for the beaches,” she said. “I feel as a host we need to find a way to provide that. Maybe we’ll go to San Diego.”