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Grease Backup Blamed For Sewage Spill

Published 7/31/2008 on Grunion Gazette  

Beaches were closed last weekend and early this week throughout Alamitos Bay after 12,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the waters near Spinnaker Bay.

The order to stay out of the water in the bay forced the cancellation of the annual Naples Island Swim, which will be rescheduled.

The cause of the spill was a sewage line that served a nearby gated community that became clogged with grease, according to the Long Beach Water Department. The blockage caused the raw sewage to bubble up through a manhole cover on a street near Spinnaker Bay, run into a gutter rain catch basin and from there untreated into Alamitos Bay.

After testing the water in Alamitos Bay, the beaches were reopened Tuesday around noon when two tests showed the water quality to be at a safe level, said Nelson Kerr, hazardous waste operations officer for the city. Colorado Lagoon remained closed, but for reasons unrelated to the spill, Kerr said.

This is the third beach closure of this summer, compared to just one all of last summer, Kerr said. It also was the second beach closure in recent weeks due to a backed-up sewer line.

Two weeks ago, 300 gallons of sewage came out of a manhole cover and into Alamitos Bay.

Representatives of the Water Department, which is charged with keeping the city’s sewer lines flowing, reminded residents that it is illegal to discharge fats, oil and grease into the city’s sewer system. That includes pouring them down the sink (which ends up in the sewer system).

It is the grease that is often a problem in the sewer lines as it hardens and blocks the flow in the pipeline.

There are 760 miles of sewer lines in Long Beach and the Water Department has an ongoing cleaning and maintenance system set up largely to keep the grease from building up in the lines, officials said.

Two years ago, there were numerous water quality problems in Alamitos Bay, and the city invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix them. Money was spent to do things such as check and upgrade the boat pump-out stations and add low-flow diversions, which means nearly one million gallons of runoff (water washed into street drains) that used to flow into the bay now goes to the sewer system to be treated before being released in the ocean.

The money spent seemed to solve the problems. The most recent Heal the Bay report card gave almost all the beaches in Alamitos Bay an “A” grade on a normal dry day. (Colorado Lagoon, with its notoriously poor water circulation, was an exception.)

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