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Why Did 3,000 Pounds of Medical Waste Wash Up on Los Angeles Beaches Last Month?

In late September, a lot of nasty medical waste in the form of condoms, tampon applicators, and even syringes washed up on the shores of Dockweiler and two other nearby Los Angeles beaches, forcing them to be shut down for a few days. Cleanup crews collected nearly 3,000 pounds of waste, says the LA Times, but no one is totally sure yet what caused the disgusting deposit (though there are some ideas floating around). Councilmember Mike Bonin today asked sanitation officials to look into "the 'absolutely horrifying' spill," especially whether or not it could happen again.

CBS LA reports that the LA County Department of Sanitation thinks that the trash deposit occurred because "recent storms dislodged a plastic build-up from a one-mile-long pipe at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant." That pipe hadn't been used in almost a decade, a sanitation official said, and it's possible that it hadn't been adequately cleaned. The shorter pipe was put into action only because the usual pipe from Hyperion (which dumps treated wastewater five miles offshore) was undergoing sorely needed repairs. The shorter pipe discharges water just one mile offshore.

Heal the Bay, which joined Bonin in his call for an investigation, is more worried that this happens more often than we know, and that the only reason it was so obvious this time was because water was and is still being returned to the sea closer to shore.

Bonin asked sanitation agency officials to report back in 21 days, so it'll be a little while before we find out whether this was a one-time event or something we can look forward to more of if El Niño rains start sending more water and trash toward the ocean this winter.
· LA City Councilman, Heal The Bay Call For Probe Into Medical Waste Spill At Dockweiler Beach [CBSLA]
· L.A. councilman wants answers after 'horrifying' waste washes ashore [LAT]
· Treated Sewage to Be Dumped Out Just One Mile From Los Angeles Beaches For a Bit [Curbed LA]