January 17, 2006

Raw sewage spill closes California beaches

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two million gallons of raw sewage
spilled onto Southern California beaches, closing some 10 miles
of coastline to surfers and beach goers for days, officials
said on Tuesday.

Water quality and sanitation officials said the spillage,
which sent raw sewage bubbling up from manholes into a handful
of homes, onto the sand and into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday,
was the worst in about a decade.

"It is definitely one of the largest spills in years. It
was pretty significant," said Bernard Franklin, water quality
manager for the Los Angeles County Office of Environmental

A nearly 10-mile stretch of beach from Manhattan Beach to
Palos Verdes was expected to remain closed until Thursday or
Friday while crews treat and test a football field-sized area
of stinking sand and fecal material, Franklin said.

Officials said the spillage was caused by an electrical
malfunction at a pumping station in Manhattan Beach, south of
Los Angeles, and the failure of a telephone-based alarm system
intended to alert authorities.

Only about 200,000 gallons to 500,000 gallons of sewage
made it into the waters of Santa Monica Bay, where it will be
dispersed naturally. Much of the rest was contained by hastily
dug sand barriers on the beach, where solid material was
removed by bulldozers and the sand was treated with chlorine.

"We want to make sure the public is protected. We are still
waiting for the full results of tests for bacteria," Franklin

Most of those in the ocean in January are surfers but
walkers were also told to stay away from the beaches until the
health threat was over.