Thousands of gallons of raw sewage prompted health authorities to
close Aliso Beach on Friday, but it was not enough to deter a handful
of beachgoers from playing in the polluted surf.
The beach was open again Sunday.
"No extra toes," joked Jon Collyer, a skimboarder from Dana Point
who was not worried by the possibility of sharing the water with
The Orange County Health Care Agency closed a 1-mile stretch of
beach after 10,500 gallons of sewage seeped out of a manhole cover
and flowed into the ocean Thursday evening, healthcare agency
spokesman Larry Honeybourne said. The spill happened between 5 and 6
p.m. Thursday and was caused by blockage created by tree roots that
grew into a sewer pipe.
"It has to back up somewhere, and it backs up through the nearest
manhole cover," Honeybourne said.
The beach was cleared to reopen on Sunday, but people were able to
ignore the warning if they chose to do so. The healthcare agency does
not have enough staffers on hand to enforce a closure, and access to
the beach is left open because people are free to spend a day on the
sand, healthcare agency spokeswoman Monica Mazur said.
Bright yellow warning signs were planted in the sand along Aliso
Beach on Friday, and a faint putrid odor lingered in the air, but
these factors were not enough to deter a few boogie boarders,
skimboarders and waders who were determined to enjoy what turned out
to be Laguna's most recent day without rain.
One parent did not think the warnings were grave enough to prevent
his daughter from going into the water, as long as she did not get in
"We're not going in full body, just the feet," said Laguna Niguel
resident John Nelson, as he played with his small daughter, Meredith.
Others said they did not notice the row of signs that greeted
beachgoers as they walked to the water.
"There are clearly not enough signs," said Santa Barbara boogie
boarder Scott Reeves, who acknowledged he probably would have gone
into the water even if he had seen the notices, since he often uses
the beaches near his hometown when warnings related to oil leaks are
A skimboarder who did not see the signs, T.J. Johnson of
Huntington Beach, said he was a little worried by the danger but
could not resist the lure of the ocean on a sunny day.
Johnson and other beachgoers were warned to stay out of the water
by a U.S. Ocean Safety lifeguard who was the patrolling the sands.
"It's basically illegal to be in the water right now," the
lifeguard said. "The water warning here is pretty serious."
Beachgoers should not only obey beach closures prompted by sewer
spills but should stay clear of the beach three days after rainfall,
said Rick Wilson, chairman of the Laguna Beach chapter of the
Surfrider Foundation. Swimming in contaminated waters puts people at
risk for gastroenteritis, eye, ear and skin infections, and illnesses