For Long Beach residents, record-setting heat might make a trip to the beach sound appetizing this weekend, but nothing churns the stomach or keeps crowds at bay like the sight of millions upon millions of gallons of raw, putrid waste pouring into the open ocean.
Roughly 2.4 million gallons of waste seeped into the the Los Angeles River after a sewage pipe in downtown Los Angeles collapsed on Monday afternoon, and much of the Long Beach coastline will remain closed until bacteria tests reach acceptable health standards, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Los Angeles sanitation crews responded to an alert on Monday afternoon about the rupture and needed almost 24 hours to stop the spill as sewage poured into the streets and into the river, which continued down Long Beach Harbor after the waste traveled 20 miles downstream. A permanent sewer bypass route was implemented on Tuesday. Final repairs were expected to be completed by late Thursday, and the city’s Bureau of Environmental Health says that beaches could re-open by Saturday, though the certainty of the projected timeline is still unclear.
The initial test results from the water were reported as innocuous, but ocean currents have now drawn out the sewage from the river — the over two-thirds of sewage that wasn’t contained by sanitation crews — and five out of nine test samples recently showed elevated levels of bacteria, including at Seal Beach and Long Beach. Seal Beach was closed until Thursday after health officials deemed that the samples were clean. Alamitos Bay, Colorado Lagoon, and Mother’s Beach are open to the public. But four miles of coastline in Long Beach, as of yesterday, are still closed, and will remain so as the city tests water quality twice a day until test levels improve.
Officials have not yet admitted the exact cause of the rupture (a collapsed pipe and a clogged line were cited by the city’s spokesman for the Department of Public Works), but another bet might be that the sewage pipe was nearly 100 years old — the pipe was constructed in 1929. The same year when the Great Depression began, when Popeye made his debut, and when 7-Up was invented by Charles Leiper Grigg.
“This happening is just a part of the maintenance system," Adel Hagekhalil, Assistant Director of Los Angeles Sanitation, told The Los Angeles Times. "Something grows old, you have to repair it or replace it.”
Until the city’s maintenance system becomes less reactive and more preventative, enjoy the smell, Long Beach.