City health officials promptly launched a series of water testing procedures – and they expect to continue them throughout the weekend – to pinpoint when the closed sites can be used safely by the public, said Nelson Kerr, manager of the Health Department's recreation water program.

The testing procedures involve the collection of shoreline water samples, followed by water-quality lab tests, in the search for bacteriological contamination, Kerr said.

"We want at least two clean samples," he added.

Officials are not sure what caused the break in the 10-inch diameter water line, but it had been spotted by electrical workers nearby, Avila said.

Kerr said there's a possibility that a catch basin at the north side of the mall's parking lot may have blocked the sewage from entering the channel waters.

For details on Long Beach water quality, call the Health Department's water-quality information line at (562) 570-4199, or visit its Web site at www.longbeach.gov/health.

Joe Segura can be reached at joe.segura@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1274.