L.A. County lifts swimming ban around Dockweiler and El Segundo beaches after major sewage discharge

The Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey
An emergency discharge of 17 million gallons of sewage at the Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey temporarily closed swimming by El Segundo Beach and Dockweiler State Beach.
(Cassy Cohen / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials late Wednesday lifted restrictions on swimming around El Segundo Beach and Dockweiler State Beach that were put in place after an emergency discharge of 17 million gallons of sewage Sunday night raised concerns about contamination.

In a news release, the county Department of Public Health said it had authorized the reopenings after results from ocean water samples collected over the last two days met state standards for water quality.

“In an abundance of caution, Public Health will continue to sample affected beaches through Thursday,” officials said.

Heal the Bay President Shelley Luce said in a statement that there were several sites in the Santa Monica Bay, including by the Santa Monica Pier, that don’t meet state standards. But she added that “it is unclear if these exceedances are due to the sewage spill, recent rainfall or something else.”


County officials did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the higher levels of bacteria were due to the sewage discharge.

The emergency discharge at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey began about 7:30 p.m. Sunday and ended about 4:30 a.m. Monday.

Timeyin Dafeta, the executive plant manager, told The Times that construction materials, including wood chips and pieces of concrete, along with paper and grease, clogged the filtering screens.

Crews tried replacing the screens and recirculating water within the plant but were forced to begin discharging the sewage through a pipe that extends one mile from land to avoid a “catastrophic situation,” he said.

Public health officials didn’t post a beach closure advisory on the county website, urging residents to avoid swimming at Dockweiler and El Segundo beaches, or share the notification on Twitter until Monday afternoon.

Brett Morrow, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health, told The Times that officials at the plant had confirmed about 10 a.m. Monday that 17 million gallons of untreated sewage had been discharged and that health officials began posting signs at the beaches by 11 a.m.