An aerial view of the Orange County, California coastline at Laguna Beach. Art Wager / E+ / Getty Images
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On Wednesday, 95,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the coastal waters of Laguna Beach in Southern California, prompting the closure of over two miles of the coastline.
The closure spans from Laguna Avenue to Blue Lagoon, according to the announcement from the Orange County Health Care Agency. The area will be closed until further notice.
“The spill volume is an estimated total of 94,500 gallons, and was caused by a break in a force main sewer line in Laguna Beach,” the agency said, as reported by KTLA. The exact location of the break has not been announced.
The affected area will remain closed for swimming, surfing and other recreational activities that involve water contact. Ongoing monitoring of water quality will determine when the water meets “acceptable standards,” and can be considered for reopening, the agency said, as reported by The Associated Press.
The Orange County Health Care Agency will offer updated information on its website, www.OCBeachInfo.com, or by phone at 714-433-6400. The agency has also asked that any sewage spills be reported by calling 714-433-6419.
Sewage spills put human health at risk, as they allow bacteria to contaminate the water. This bacteria can lead to various health impacts for those who come in contact with it.
“Gastroenteritis is the most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by sewage. It occurs in a variety of forms that can have one or more of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhea, headache and fever,” a California government website noted. “Other minor illnesses that can result from swimming in polluted water include ear, eye, skin, nose and throat infections. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, cholera and typhoid fever.”
Aside from the negative health impacts for humans, sewage spills pose great risks to the environment. Sewage spills can increase risk of algal blooms, which can block sunlight and oxygen for aquatic life, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to Surfrider Foundation, around 900 billion gallons of under-treated sewage spill into surface waters around the world per year. The organization explained that spills can often be attributed to aging and poorly maintained infrastructure that cannot keep up with the wastewater needs of rapidly growing populations.
“Climate change will make this situation worse as more frequent and more severe coastal storms will occur, dumping high volumes of rain, causing flooding and sewers to overflow,” Surfrider Foundation shared. “Sea level rise in some coastal cities like Miami is also already causing sunny day flooding and problems within the stormwater and wastewater systems.”