Jan 09, 2007

LA Sewage Agency Fined Millions for Spill

The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County has agreed to pay over $2.5 million to settle a dispute over a large spill earlier this year where more than 800,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the Pacific Ocean and coastal groundwater supplies.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the agreement with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and Santa Monica Baykeeper will prevent what was expected to be a long legal battle. This was the largest spill reported in the Santa Monica Bay in a decade.

The spill occurred on January 15, 2006, and led to 65,000 gallons of untreated wastewater flowing into the ocean. An additional 780,000 gallons reached groundwater supplies beneath Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.

The cause of the spill, which closed beaches for several days, has not been made known.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a preliminary county investigation found that all four safeguards designed to prevent a major sewage spill failed at the pumping station. The electrical system and the emergency backup didn't work, and neither did the alarm system that would have alerted officials. Also, a separate system designed to measure the depth and pressure inside the pumping station also failed.

After the incident, sanitation district officials vowed to make sure that other pumping stations didn't have similar problems. As a part of the settlement, the Sanitation Districts would be released from liability for the 93 sewage spills in the last five years.

Most of the money from the settlement will fund environmental research programs, such as a to study of bacteria sources in the Redondo Beach area.

Since the spill, the county sanitation agency has started to upgrade older equipment, specifically the electrical control panels at the Manhattan Beach pumping station.