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Climate and Environment

Problems Persist At Hyperion Water Treatment Plant That Spilled 17M Gallons Of Sewage Earlier This Month

The entrance to the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant has a sign that has the name. A security guard can be seen in the background.
After the plant was "inundated with overwhelming quantities of debris" earlier this month, 17 million gallons of sewage were discharged from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant one mile offshore, instead of the usual five miles.
AFP via Getty Images)
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You might have seen our earlier report that shoreline testing showed abnormally high levels of bacteria along some South Bay beaches, which has resulted in warnings about the water quality this week and into the weekend. Those findings came more than two weeks after a treatment plant in El Segundo dumped more than 17 million gallons of wastewater into the ocean.

Authorities downplayed the connection to that earlier spill. Then our friends at the L.A. Times reported Friday that the beleaguered Hyperion treatment plant
near Dockweiler State Beach is still dumping sewage into the Pacific.

When we reached out to the L.A. Department of Sanitation, officials there confirmed that flooding from the July 11 sewage spill caused significant damage to some critical systems within the treatment plant. And, for lack of a better phrase, it’s been backed up for nearly three weeks.

That means engineers were forced to come up with ways to divert some of that solid waste Thursday night, including releasing some of it into the ocean.

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According to the city, that sludge is getting flushed out a few miles offshore — so it won’t reach local beaches. But the environmental group Heal the Bay says not all of that waste has been properly treated, which could be harmful for human health and marine life.

It also accused the Department of Sanitation of not giving the public notice about the new outflow.

For their part, sanitation officials emphasized a long track record of compliance prior to the breakdown earlier this month. In a statement, the department said:

"Upon restoration of plant processes to normal conditions, Hyperion expects to return to its exemplary compliance record with effluent discharge limits in the near future."

The odor from the spill was so strong, the city has been offering reimbursements for air-conditioning units and hotel stays for nearby residents, an offer that has been extended until Aug. 5.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the L.A. City Council have both ordered investigations on the original spill.

Meanwhile, health officials will continue monitoring bacteria levels at local beaches on a day-to-day basis.

What questions do you have about Southern California?