By Oscar Huerta, May 16, 2023
A 250,000 gallon sewage spill temporarily shut down the Long Beach coastal beaches April 20. In response, Long Beach City Council voted May 9 to search for ways to seek reparations for this incident and future sewage spills.
A main sewer line blockage in Downey, California, caused the spill, which led to an overflow of sewage that flowed down the Los Angeles River to the beaches according to a press release from Long Beach.
Tired of the beach’s long history of closures from upriver sewage spills, several Long Beach City Council members decided to take action against these spills and put forth a request to the Long Beach City Council.
The request asked for the council to examine the environmental, social and economic impacts these spills left on the city and seek reimbursement for the costs of these incidents.
Long Beach has faced many beach closures due to sewage spills in recent times. A month before this incident, Long Beach closed its beaches due to an 18,000 gallon spill in March. Earlier in December 2021, a more severe spill occurred with an estimated 2 to 4 million gallons spilled at the beach.
This recent spill seemed to be the last straw for Long Beach Councilmember Kristina Duggan, who oversees the largest majority of the Long Beach coastal beaches. In their request to the Long Beach City Council, they noted the irony of this particular beach closure because of how it timed up with the celebration of Earth Day.
Duggan told the Long Beach Post these spills have had an overall negative impact on the city’s economy and the public’s perceptions of the beach, and it is time for the city to hold those responsible for these spills accountable.
Associate Professor of biology Andrea Bonisoli Alquati commented on the importance of preventing sewage from entering the waters at the beach due to the many ill effects that untreated sewage contaminants may pose to the environment and public health. Alquati noted even if the water dilutes the sewage, higher concentrations of sewage can accumulate in the bodies of beach organisms, potentially moving up the food chain.
Alquati said it makes sense for legislators to worry about the impacts of these spills considering the high amounts of sewage that has been spilled at Long Beach. Alquati hoped this motion from the Long Beach City Council can start incentivizing safer sewage practices and prevent future incidents.
“It’s a legitimate concern, and I’m glad that someone is putting a mechanism in motion for assessment and compensation of the damage, and I wish that funding will go to people doing research on the effects as well as the mechanism for compensating for natural resource damage once that has been established,” Alquati said.
CPP students’ opinions on Long Beach also seem to fall in line with Duggan’s statement on negative public perception, as most interviewed by The Poly Post were put off from visiting the beach in the near future because of this recent sewage spill.
Jenna Salem, an English student, has not been to the Long Beach coast in years. Salem said that this incident negatively affected her view on the beach.
“I’ve already been going to a different beach besides Long Beach for unrelated reasons, but now knowing about this spillage, I probably won’t want to go there for a long time,” Salem said.
Angel Ruiz, a manufacturing engineering student, shared the same sentiments about this incident. Ruiz said he would only want to visit a beach he viewed as clean, and it was upsetting for him to hear about the long history of sewage spills at Long Beach.
“It gives a bad reputation for the area,” Ruiz said. “I wouldn’t want to go visit the beach when it has a bad reputation of poor management.”
Ruiz also noted these spills hurt those who live in Long Beach and depend on tourism, saying that the bad reputation of the beach will only hurt their business.
While council members wait for decisions to be made, the Long Beach coastal beaches have reopened by this point according to its online beach watch.
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