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Raw sewage spill closes Coast Highway

Leak fouled beaches from Agate Street to Woods Cove. Highway reopening uncertain.

April 18, 2008|By Cindy Frazier and Candice Baker

A major sewage spill has forced the closure of Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.

Starting about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, sewage began to leak from a transmission main located underneath Coast Highway near Center Street, Laguna Beach City Manager Ken Frank wrote in press releases. The ruptured line transports raw sewage from central Laguna Beach to a treatment plant in Aliso Canyon.

The volume of the spill is about 50 gallons per minute. Some of the sewage has reached the beach, and the beach will be closed, Frank said. Agate and Woods Cove beaches are affected by the spill.

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Coast Highway from Diamond Street to Bluebird Canyon Drive will be closed at least until midnight and maybe until the morning, according to the City Road Condition hotline. Traffic was backed up to downtown Laguna Beach.  Vehicles are being rerouted onto Glenneyre Street, parallel to the highway. As of 9:30 p.m. Thursday the highway was still closed.

City sewer crews, with assistance from employees at the South Coast Water District, are now capturing most of the spill and are putting it back into the sewer system, Frank stated, adding that the problem appears to be a broken clamp around an air relief valve, which the city will be replace as soon as possible. The sewage pipe itself does not appear to be damaged or to have any relationship to the spill, he stated.

“Now they have to get down to the pipe and figure out how to fix the valve fitting,” said police volunteer Vic Opincar.

Authorities have declared the area a hazardous material area and everyone must stay out except authorized personnel, which include OCTA, Caltrans, the Laguna Beach Police and fire departments, and the Laguna Beach Public Works. There were rumors of CalOSHA coming down to inspect.

Teams have been using hoses to divert the sewage to other lines, and pressure washing the curbs on either side of Coast Highway, under passenger vehicles and on wheels to remove any potential contamination.

Work was also being reportedly done on a water line nearby, but officials wouldn’t comment whether it was related to the sewage line rupture.

Many residents were sitting on Mozambique’s patio to watch.

“It certainly has had an impact, because for us, we have this huge car park,” said Mozambique’s Director of Restaurant Operations George Poulos, gesturing at an empty parking lot with an entrance on Agate Street.

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