Environment & Science

3 Southern California beaches get funding to fix sewer lines

File: Signs warn the public to stay out of the water in an area harboring high bacteria levels near a drain at Will Rogers State Beach on Aug. 7, 2007 in Pacific Palisades.
File: Signs warn the public to stay out of the water in an area harboring high bacteria levels near a drain at Will Rogers State Beach on Aug. 7, 2007 in Pacific Palisades.
David McNew/Getty Images

Three California State Parks will receive sewer-line makeovers thanks to the State Water Resources Control Board approving the use of $10 million in bond money from the Clean Beaches Initiative Grant Program. Doheny State Beach, El Capitan State Beach and Carpinteria State Beach will undergo repairs to fix their aging infrastructure.

Some of the sewage systems are approximately 50 years old and are nearing the end of their useful life, Pat Leary, program manager for the Clean Beaches Initiative Grant Program, told KPCC.

The agency was left with some leftover funds, then began sifting through state parks and other entities up and down the coast to decide which ones needed them the most, she said. 

“We decided that maybe this would be a good alternate use to fund some critical, preventative projects at California state beaches, because they’re highly used and important, and they’re high recreational use areas,” Leary said.

The three beaches chosen all have varying degrees of sewer system failure.

Joe Karkowski with the State Water Resources Control Board told KPCC that these problems could potentially pose public health risks.

“You want to address the problems when you see them, and when you see them coming, you want to try and get a fix in place,” he said.

Doheny State Beach has always had these types of issues — the agency was aware of the aging sewer lines across the beach from previous studies, Leary said.

“We are going to address their sewers and pump stations at the park and replace, re-line and make improvements so that they are robust and new again,” she said.

One of the beach’s sewer lines is attached to a bridge and flows over a creek.

“If it leaked or broke, it would flow directly into the creek and out to the ocean," Leary said. In order to make it safer, they plan to connect to the city sewer in a different location.

The on-site wastewater treatment facility at El Capitan State Beach in Santa Barbara County is at capacity — and is showing early signs of failure at the waste discharge site. This project will be slightly tricky, according to Leary, as the land was once Chumash Indian ground and contains archaeological finds throughout the park.

“Digging up and doing new sewer work there — we have to be very careful, so it’s going to be an interesting project,” she said.

An area of RV campground at Carpinteria State Beach has sewer hookups for campers to empty out waste from the RVs, but they are also reaching the end of their life and will be replaced, she said.

“There’s potential for sewer spills onto the beach and areas there,” she said.

The project will take approximately three years to complete, she added. Construction will begin once the grant agreements, project designs and cost estimates are finalized.

“The public will see a great benefit from it,” Karkowski said.