A massive sewage leaks south of Newport Coast last night has shut down the beaches from Newport Beach to San Clemente. A whopping 4 *million* gallons of raw human sewage spilled into our coastline. The sewage leak apparently came a break in a force-main at about 4pm on Wednesday, coming from the Ben Brown Golf Course in Laguna Beach.
“I want to stress the importance of avoiding contact with ocean water in the affected areas due to the danger of exposure to untreated sewage, which can be harmful and result in very serious illness with potentially severe effects,” Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said about the incident. This, combined with our “first flush” makes the water particularly… frankly… disgusting. Which brings us to the second part of this story:
We just got our first big seasonal rain! While these showers were a much-needed water for our area, it also presents a problem: urban runoff and bacterial water infestations– especially the first rain of the season– what is often called the “first flush”– these are far bigger concerns than a normal rain watershed, as these have spent all year accumulating and waiting for this big rain.
As the chemicals wash off into the ocean and the storm drains flood, it has also washed immeasurable amounts of viruses and bacteria right into our local oceanfront. This is the result of the first-wash urban runoff usually reserved for the wintertime (when we get our regularly scheduled first-rains). The water bacteria levels in EVERY MEASURED AREA have exceeded state health standards, and could cause illness.
Experts at the ocbeachinfo.com monitoring stations have released an official statement:
“The Environmental Health staff advises swimmers that levels of bacteria can rise significantly in ocean and bay waters adjacent to storm drains, creeks and rivers during and after rainstorms. The elevated levels of bacteria can continue for a period of at least 3 days after the rain stops depending upon the intensity of the rain and the volume of the runoff. Swimmers should avoid coastal waters impacted by discharging storm drains creeks and rivers, and beach users should avoid contact with any runoff on the beach during dry or wet weather conditions.”
So, if you’re tempted to hit the beaches this weekend… you now have what you need to make an informed decision on how much you’d like to deal with the ocean waters 🙂