El Segundo moves to sue L.A. over massive Santa Monica Bay sewage spill, foul odors

The Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey.
(Cassy Cohen / Los Angeles Times)

The El Segundo City Council on Thursday declared a local state of emergency and authorized a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles regarding ongoing issues stemming from a massive spill that dumped millions of gallons of sewage into Santa Monica Bay and left residents complaining of headaches and stomach and eye pain due to the noxious odors.

The council’s unanimous actions Thursday come after more than a year of frustration with Los Angeles and lingering effects of the spill from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, said El Segundo Mayor Drew Boyles.

“In July 2021, when we first got the call of what was going on, we were in disbelief, frustrated and angry,” Boyles told The Times. “Now, 14 months later, we all feel exactly the same.”


About 17 million gallons of sewage were dumped into Santa Monica Bay following the failure at the Playa del Rey plant. The resulting odors were later blamed by residents who said they developed rashes, nausea, burning eyes and other symptoms in the aftermath.

The L.A. city attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The city of L.A. will reimburse El Segundo residents for air conditioners if they stay in their homes, or hotel vouchers if they would rather leave.

July 24, 2021

More than 1,100 odor-related complaints have been lodged against the plant this year, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued nearly 50 notices of violation to the facility, most of them for public nuisance.

Also on Thursday, the district issued a stipulated order for abatement against the plant to address several issues, including air monitoring, and set up a 24-hour hotline for odor complaints.

The district alleged in its order that the Los Angeles sanitation bureau, which operates the facility, “is unable to contain the sewage odors at Hyperion and cannot conduct operations at the wastewater treatment plant” without violating a rule prohibiting “the discharge of contaminants that may cause injury or nuisance.”

According to Boyles, an ad hoc committee issued dozens of recommendations to the plant to address some issues but “very few” have been implemented.


“We were fed up so we decided to finally declare a state of emergency and pursue legal action,” he said.

A study finds ‘little or no evidence’ that illegally dumped debris caused the July spill in Santa Monica Bay — as sanitation officials initially said.

Feb. 11, 2022

Thursday’s declaration allows the city to take some action and seek resources, but Boyles said he hopes it will draw the attention “of people who can help influence the condition of the plant and get it in good working order.”

Pursuing a lawsuit was a “no brainer,” he added.

“We have to get some other governing body or judge to weigh in on this and get them to take action,” he said.

El Segundo’s lawsuit would not be the first filed regarding the sewage spill.

Earlier this year, more than 100 people living in and near El Segundo filed a suit accusing the city of Los Angeles of exposing them to toxic hydrogen sulfide gas.