Los Angeles's Dockweiler State Beach was closed Wednesday evening after waste, including hypodermic needles and tampon applicators, washed up on shore, the Associated Press reports. There were also excessive levels of bacteria found in the water.
The closure was announced after waste was spotted Wednesday in the sand along the nearly 4-mile-long beach. City and county officials worked together Wednesday evening and Thursday to clear about 200 pounds of debris from the beach, said Tonya Burrell, a spokeswoman for the city’s sanitation department.
The beach contamination is likely a result of last week’s rainstorm, said Sarah Sikich, vice president of the environmental group Heal the Bay. People aren’t supposed to flush tampon applicators, hypodermic needles and condoms down the toilet — but when they do, they’re usually captured in wastewater treatment plants and disposed of in landfills.
“But when there’s heavy flows like there was last week with the rain, unfortunately some of those materials can surpass the system,” Sikich said.
Treated wastewater is typically discharged through an outfall pipe five miles offshore, but the storm required the diversion of an emergency 200 million gallons of treated wastewater through a pipe one mile offshore, according to Heal the Bay.
Then on Monday, repairs began on the pipeline five miles offshore, which belongs to the city-owned Hyperion Treatment Plant. As a result, some waste was temporarily diverted and discharged through the pipe just a mile from shore. Sikich said she suspects that any waste left in the pipes from the storm was pushed out into the water at this point.
By Thursday afternoon, most of the medical debris from the pipe has already washed ashore, Burrell said, adding, “we think we’re coming to the end of it."
Still, L.A. County sanitation officials are warning beachgoers to avoid the water at Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey and Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades. Recorded information on beach conditions is available 24 hours a day on the county’s beach closure hotline, 1-800-525-5662, or online.
This story has been updated.