The city's environmental health manager and the person who reported the sewage spill that has closed all Alamitos Bay beaches told Patch the sewer overflow in the gated community of Bixby Hill was not reported for as many as 15 hours before ocean water testing began.
And an apparent delay of reporting the spill, which will keep Alamitos Bay beaches closed at least until Friday and maybe longer, is under investigation for any violation of state health and safety codes; sewage spills require immediate reporting, said Long Beach Environmental Health manager Nelson Kerr.
"Our city leaders are very, very conerned with this situation and ensuring that it never happen again, and investigating potential enforcement actions," Kerr added.
No one should touch the water nor go in it at Alamitos Bay-fronting beaches, which include Bay Shore, Peninsula, Naples Island, Mother's Beach and Marine Stadium, Kerr said. He said the city also voluntarily contacted Orange County to alert to the Los Cerritos Channel bacterial contamination, and 300 feet of Seal Beach nearest the San Gabriel River mouth, and the jetty area, were closed until Wednesday.
A resident on Bixby Terrace Drive, a private residential road, said he first discovered the sewage leak and reported it to his homeowner association at 7 p.m. Saturday. It was at least 15 hours or more before Long Beach officials say they were notified and began testing ocean water for unsafe levels of bacteria, which is a public safety risk.
"I was the person that reported the issue on Saturday at 7 p.m. to the (homeowner) association," the man wrote, "so I went to bed and woke up the next morning and nothing was done. So I called the city emergency hot line."
It was still more hours later Sunday before the testing results concluded bacterial levels beyond state limits, and Marine Stadium and Mother's Beach were closed to the public,said Long Beach's Kerr.
A private septic tank that serves 18 to 20 homes would normally be pumped out by sump pump to the city's sewer lines, Kerr said. But the pump went out, and raw sewage backed up into an overflow reservoir, and then up through manhole covers, and flowed down Bixby Terrace Drive, then into a catch basin that empties into Los Cerritos Channel (see attached map screen shot).
Kerr said Wednesday night that another in his department got the call at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and he was notified midday. Testing must be done for bacteria and done in several locations, which was completed and resulted in unsafe bacteria findings, Kerr said.
Daily continued testing must find two consecutive days of acceptable bacteria levels before the public can be exposed to the contaminated water. The test usually requires 24 hours for results and is done in the morning.
So Thursday morning, it will be learned whether Wednesday's ocean water testing at Alamitos Bay waterfronts showed acceptable bacteria levels. Thursday's test results will be know Friday morning, and that is when residents will learn whether they can swim, kayak, wind surf or stand up paddle during the weekend following a week of high temperatures.
Patch will continue trying to reach someone with the homeowner's association on the reporting of the sewage spill.