According to CBS News, 17 million gallons of raw sewage was ejected into Santa Monica Bay after a power outage on Sunday. The discharge has led to Southern California beaches closing for the week. 

Hyperion Water Reclamation, the sewage plant responsible for the incident, explained that it “became inundated with overwhelming quantities of debris, causing backup of the headworks facilities.” Six percent of the plant’s “daily load” poured into the ocean that day; it lasted for eight hours.

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Officials from the Hyperion Water Reclamation plant said the incident was not an accident, but rather “an emergency measure to prevent the plant from going completely offline and discharging much more raw sewage.”

Beaches will reopen once waters in surrounding areas are tested and shown to not have dangerous amounts of bacteria in them. Locals are strongly urged to not touch or come into contact with the ocean in that area until they are given notice.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was unsatisfied with the plant’s statement and that the problems related to the spill were dealt with the following morning.

“What happened yesterday was unacceptable and dangerous. Not only did the Hyperion Plant release seventeen million gallons of sewage into our ocean — the public had little to no information about it for hours,” she said in a statement to CBS News, “We need answers from LA City Sanitation about what went wrong and led to this massive spill, but we also need to recognize that LA County Public Health did not effectively communicate with the public and could have put swimmers in danger.”

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The health concerns regarding the spill are serious. The state director for Environment California is particularly worried about it making residents sick. Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization, said that debris from these spills “harbor bacteria and can cause entanglement of wildlife,” which is “extremely dangerous to people and can carry a variety of diseases.”

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