EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — El Segundo residents have health concerns following the raw sewage discharge at the Los Angeles Sanitation-operated Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.
Plant officials said the plant flooded July 11 after large amounts of debris clogged pipes. Employees were evacuated, and 17 million gallons of untreated sewer water were released into the beach through a one-mile pipe.
What You Need To Know
- Local residents have health concerns following the raw sewage discharge at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant
- Officials said the plant flooded July 11 after large amounts of debris clogged pipes
- According to a report, the handling of the release and public notifications were "failures"
- El Segundo City Council said clearing the air will take two to three months and is causing the odor to permeate the air
Hyperion staff notified the California Office of Emergency Services, but a public notice wasn't issued until 16 hours after discharge.
El Segundo resident Nikia Gonzales said her daughter Luna was at beach camp the morning after the discharge. Gonzales is upset residents weren't quickly notified and is now worried about her daughter, who was born at just over a pound with respiratory issues.
"There was well enough time for us to be notified," she said. "The beach should have been closed that morning."
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ordered an independent review of what happened. According to the report, the handling of the release and public notifications were "failures."
Findings show that the LA County Department of Public Health's Environmental Health program was ill-prepared due to recent retirements. The person who received the after-hours call was not trained enough for the role and was absent for critical hours. County lifeguards were first alerted about the discharge by a bicyclist, not county or state officials.
Resident Tamara Kcehowski, who lives just steps from the plant, said the discharge has given her headaches, irritated her throat and lungs and made her vomit. She doesn't have air conditioning and worries the air coming inside her windows will impact an upcoming surgery to treat breast cancer.
"I need to be healthy," she said. "I need my lungs to be healthy before I can be put under for four hours."
El Segundo City Councilmember Carol Pirsztuk said clearing the air will take time. Cleanup inside the plant will take two to three months and is causing the odor to permeate the air.
Pirsztuk wants to form an oversight committee, so that nearby cities know more about what is going on at the plant. The council has invited LA Sanitation to a meeting on Aug. 17.
"We want to be their partner, but we want answers," Pirsztuk said. "We want to know what happened. We want to know what procedures are being put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Hyperion is now offering reimbursements for air conditioners and hotel rooms for El Segundo residents who live between Imperial Highway, Pacific Coast Highway, El Segundo Boulevard and Vista Del Mar.
Residents without an AC can purchase units and be reimbursed $600 for homes 1,000 square feet and smaller, or $1,200 for homes more than 1,000 square feet. People who decide to stay in a hotel room can be reimbursed up to $182 per day and up to $62 per day for each person who lives full-time in the household for meals and incidentals.
The reimbursement is available until July 29, when plant officials believe they will have a better handle on the cleanup.
LA Sanitation Public Information Director Elena Stern noted that they want to provide relief to residents.
"We want to make this right as much as we can," she said. "This was an unforeseen circumstance."
Gonzales is concerned that taking advantage of the reimbursement will exempt her from filing a lawsuit in the future if there are long-term effects from the discharge.
"My daughter was in the ocean. I don't know how she's going to feel," Gonzales said. "Air conditioning won't stop the long-term effects."
LA County expects a new, detailed after-action report and final recommendations by independent investigators by Aug. 27.
To file a claim for reimbursement, visit here.