Dockweiler Beach Closure Prompts Cleanup Concerns

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Dockweiler State Beach remained closed for four days after nearly 200 pounds of debris spilled onto the beach and into the water.

Dockweiler State Beach is situated directly underneath the Los Angeles International Airport flight path and across the street from the city’s oldest wastewater treatment facility — Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.

Nearly 200 pounds of debris, including hypodermic needles, condoms and tampons was collected from the beaches and waters in the area during the four-day beach closure, which spanned Sept. 22-26.

Officials believe a dormant pipeline owned by the city’s plant and recent heavy rainfall caused an overflow and subsequent surge in the pipeline.

“We are talking with the Bureau of Sanitation and the Regional Water Quality Control Board to have those conversations about what’s next … to figure out what occurred and what happened,” Heal the Bay Director Alix Hobbs said. “Whenever there is a spill of any kind, the beaches should remained closed until it is safe to swim — until the bacteria levels dissipate. It is a very case-by-case basis.”

Hobbs and Heal the Bay work closely with multiple agencies to ensure water qualities are up to par for not only beach goers, but also marine life. Heal the Bay releases weekly and annual beach report cards that test bacteria levels in the water to ensure safety standards are met for all walks of life to enjoy their environments.

During the 2014-15 reporting period, 95 percent of the 468 beaches tested in California received an A or B grade, with only 13 beaches receiving a D grade or lower, according to the report. 

“With the recent spill at Hyperion, it now makes it more relevant for people who want to enjoy the bay to check out the beach report card so they know if it’s safe to swim or not,” Hobbs said. “We have working knowledge of the beach water quality and therefore can advocate if a beach should remain closed due to bacteria levels or if a beach should open so it’s safe for the public to swim.”

Four days prior to the spill, thousands of environmental advocates internationally volunteered with organizations to clean up beaches and recreation centers during a coastal cleanup day. 

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the California Coastal Commission hosted its 31st Annual Coastal Cleanup Day with preliminary reports of more than 53,000 volunteers that picked up 614,188 pounds of trash in California. 

“We removed 22,000 pounds of trash from the beaches and got it out of the marine environment, and that was just the Los Angeles-based Heal the Bay volunteers,” Hobbs said. “We think it’s important that we continue to be a voice for the marine life from a variety of ways, and making sure that there is a place for the marine life to thrive and also from removing any of the trash that’s been introduced to the environment through our storm drain system — that’s something that we continue to do on a daily basis.” 

“Sometimes it takes an event like this for people to notice what is happening around them, and I’d like to believe a lot of good will come out of this,” resident Brian Brown said. “Hopefully the City of Los Angeles and the Hyperion Treatment Plant will improve on the handling of liquid waste.”