La Jolla

More than 12,000 gallons of sewage gushed past the La Valencia Hotel into La Jolla Cove on Wednesday at the rate of 50 gallons per minute, prompting county health officials to close the cove for at least 24 hours.

The spill, first reported at 11:55 a.m., occurred when a sewer main at 1132 Prospect St. clogged, causing sewage to surface and flow down the street past the side of the hotel and eventually into the cove.

A city utilities crew posted signs at the contaminated area about noon, but it wasn't until county health workers discovered a leak in the sewer main that an emergency utilities crew was sent out at 3 p.m. to contain the flow.

The spill was controlled about 3:45 p.m., said Joe Ranson, a supervisor in the sewer department. Ranson said some type of stoppage, such as grease or roots, clogged the sewer main and caused the spill.

David Carey, supervising environmental health sanitarian at the county's Environmental Health Services, said the cove will remain posted as off limits for at least 24 hours, possibly longer.

"Tidal actions and surf conditions will determine when the cove will be opened again," Carey said. "It usually takes two good tidal exchanges, but the cove is pretty well-protected and it might take longer to clean that out."

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