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Needles And Condoms That Washed Onto Dockweiler Beach Were 10 Years Old

Dockweiler Beach (Photo by Karol Franks via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The syringe needles, condoms, and tampon applicators that washed up on Dockweiler State Beach in September had been sitting in a storm drain for 10 years, according to a report.On Sept. 15, a heavy storm overwhelmed the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey, prompting workers to divert some of the treated sewage into a backup pipe that hadn't been used since 2005. Normally, treated sewage is released five miles offshore, but the backup pipe being used was only a mile long and also connected to a storm drain. That storm drain had accumulated the medical waste from a sewage break 10 years ago, and its pumps were not designed to take in solid material.

Plant general manager Tim Dafeta told KPCC that the one-mile pipe was open for about five hours on that day. However, it wasn't until a scheduled use of the same pipe a week later on Sept. 21 that swimmers and surfers at Dockweiler State Beach began noticing the trash washing ashore.

"I was out there surfing out there on that day that it dumped, I was swimming and it was disgusting," surfer Zan Sacker told KPCC. "I was here and I saw tampon applicators, um, a lot of trash, just disgusting—toilet paper and things like that."

Photographs later revealed that the mesh at the end of the pipe that would normally hold the trash back was ripped and out of place.

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Dafeta says the trash spill was a one-time thing, and that the Hyperion plant would be ready for the expected onslaught from El Niño. However, Heal The Bay remains skeptical. "It was still a tremendous amount of material, and for that to go sort of undiscovered and uncleaned for over 10 years, it still leads to some questions," Rita Kampalath, science and policy director from Heal the Bay, told KPCC.

Authorities closed the beach for four days and reopened it on the 26th, after the trash was cleaned up and deemed it safe.