El Segundo, CA — Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is asking for answers after a “mechanical failure” at a LA City Sanitation facility discharged 17 million gallons of sewage into the ocean off the coast of Dockweiler Beach.
“What happened yesterday was unacceptable and dangerous,” said Supervisor Hahn. “Not only did the Hyperion Plant release seventeen million gallons of sewage into our ocean– the public had little to no information about it for hours. 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.”
At today’s meeting of the LA County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Hahn read-in a motion regarding the spill, seeking answers about the cause of the spill, the extent of the impacts, and, importantly, seeking a corrective action plan to ensure faster response, coordination, reporting, and communication about any future sewage discharges that may require timely beach closures to prevent public exposure.
The motion passed unanimously.
Text of Read In Motion:
MOTION BY SUPERVISOR JANICE HAHN July 13, 2021
Public Notification of Sewage Discharges
On July 11, 2021, the Hyperion Reclamation Plant (the Plant) discharged approximately 17 million gallons of untreated sewage through the one-mile outfall into the Santa Monica Bay off the coast of Dockweiler State Beach. Plant crews worked overnight to resolve the issue and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health posted “Beach Closure” signs in the area around Dockweiler State Beach. However, many beach goers and local residents were not aware of the closure and it was not clear which areas of the ocean water were impacted until health officials issued a news release later in the evening of July 12, 2021.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Division (Public Health) is responsible for monitoring ocean water quality and is charged with taking appropriate action when untreated sewage enters an area where public health may be jeopardized. If beaches become contaminated due to untreated sewage, Public Health’s reporting protocol requires the department to immediately post “Beach Closure” signs and issue a public advisory explaining the reason for any beach closures. Effective monitoring and public notification of ocean water quality requires open communication and situational awareness of the sewage discharge incident among all coordinating agencies within Los Angeles County, as well as the Sanitation Districts and sewage treatment facilities.
During a sewage discharge event where, public health may be jeopardized, it is imperative that Public Health immediately notify the general public of health risks and swiftly coordinate with partner agencies to ensure health protective action is taken. Immediate notification should be defined as 15 minutes from the time that Public Health is aware of a serious adverse event that poses a public health risk. With appropriate coordination and communication among agencies within Los Angeles County, we can protect the ocean water quality and the public health of Los Angeles County residents.
I, THEREFORE MOVE that the Board of Supervisors directs the Chief Executive Officer, in concert with the County Fire Department, Department of Beaches and Harbors, Department of Public Works, Department of Public Health, and in consultation with Los Angeles City Sanitation and Environment, to report back within 7 days on the following:
1. Any and all issues, including but not limited to, the cause and extent of impacts related to the sewage spill and/or discharge that occurred the evening of July 11th off the coast of Dockweiler State Beach;
2. All necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Los Angeles County residents and provide timely public notification of environmental hazards, including but not limited to, dissemination of information, signage, and closures;
3. A corrective action plan that would result in faster response, coordination, reporting and communication about future sewage discharges that may require timely beach closures to prevent public exposure.