Dockweiler State Beach reopens after medical waste spill

Dockweiler State Beach reopened Saturday afternoon, as cleanup efforts continue to rid the area of medical waste and other refuse washing ashore.

"The investigation is ongoing to determine what caused the debris to wash up ashore,'' according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "Public Health will continue to work with the Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors, and Los Angeles City Sanitation to monitor the beaches to ensure they are safe for the public.''

Sanitation officials said the material was likely the result of last week's heavy rain inundating systems at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey, forcing a discharge through pipe that had not been used in a decade.

The beach was closed Wednesday after debris that included hypodermic needles, condoms and tampon applicators began washing up on the sand.

"This debris may have been gathering in that outfall for close to 10 years, as that outfall has been dormant during that time,'' according to LA Sanitation, a division of the city Department of Public Works. "The peak storm flow from last week may have impacted the screening process filtering these types of items and was compounded by the first flush through the one-mile outfall.''

LA Sanitation officials said Friday that bacteria levels in the ocean water, which had been elevated, have been measured within state water quality standards at Santa Monica Bay beaches for the past two days.

Cleanup crews have collected more than 200 pounds of debris from Dockweiler Beach over the past few days, but sanitation officials said Friday the amount of debris washing ashore had diminished dramatically.

A stretch of beach in El Segundo was also closed Wednesday due to the same waste issue. Officials reopened that beach on Friday.

Sanitation officials said they first became aware of the debris Tuesday night and have had as many as three vessels in the area where the one-mile pipe releases material into the water, "and no additional materials have been observed in the last three days, indicating this is not a continuous source of debris.''

A Hyperion pipeline that normally pumps wastewater five miles off the coastline is being repaired, forcing the plant to use the shorter, one-mile pipeline.

Officials with the environmental group Heal the Bay have been warning about possible increases in bacteria levels and waste due to the repair project, which is expected to last at least five weeks.

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