An outage at a treatment plant in Southern California resulted in 17 million gallons of untreated sewage spewing into the ocean and the closing of several miles of beaches.
Hyperion Water Reclamation said on Monday that it "became inundated with overwhelming quantities of debris, causing backup of the headworks facilities." Hyperion is the oldest and largest sewage plant in Los Angeles County. It has been in operation since 1894.
The company said that 6% of the plant's daily sewage load was released out of a pipe about a mile offshore from Santa Monica Bay. The spill lasted for eight hours.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health closed the beaches Monday and warned that the waters could contain bacteria that might make swimmers sick.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said the incident would be investigated.
"What happened yesterday was unacceptable and dangerous. 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," said Hahn in a statement to CBS News.
"We need answers from LA City Sanitation about what went wrong and led to this massive spill," she added, "but we also need to recognize that L.A. County Public Health did not effectively communicate with the public and could have put swimmers in danger."
A spokesperson for Los Angeles Sanitation said that the discharge was an emergency measure to prevent more untreated sewage from spilling out.
"They actually diverted a much larger emergency, which is, if the plant had to go offline altogether," the spokesperson said. "It would have been a real crisis."
Officials are monitoring the bacteria levels at beaches but could not say when they might open them up to swimmers.
Here's a local news report about the sewage spill:
Several beaches near Dockweiler closed after 17 million gallons of sewage spills into the ocean www.youtube.com