Water Quality Control Board reaches $2.2 Million Settlement for Treatment Plant Sewage Spill

By on May 1, 2018

Two September 2015 that released partially treated municipal wastewater — containing plastic waste and other debris which was discharged into Santa Monica Bay — have resulted in a $2.2 million settlement between the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the City of Los Angeles. A review of the sewage spill revealed that a large storm event, a failed valve, and flooding of the pumping plant’s basement, combined with old plastic waste caught in the Hyperion stormdrain system, caused the unauthorized discharge through the plant’s one-mile outfall to Santa Monica Bay.

Both incidents occurred while the plant’s regular five-mile outfall was closed for upgrades to the plant’s pumping system. Approximately 30 million gallons of secondary treated wastewater, combined with stormwater and solid debris from city sewage, was discharged on Sept. 15, 2015. A similar but longer event occurred on Sept. 21 which caused local beaches to close for four days.

Items discharged from the underground stormdrain system at the Hyperion Treatment Plant included lancets, feminine hygiene products, and other waste items. The incidents led to community apprehension about entering or using Santa Monica Bay waters for more than a month after the beach closure was lifted. The city’s Hyperion Treatment Plant is Los Angeles’ largest wastewater treatment plant.

“A number of factors contributed to these unfortunate incidents that put thousands of residents at risk for exposure to the offending waste and resulted in the closure of two beaches,” said Deborah Smith, executive officer for the Los Angeles Regional Water Board. “Since that time, and due to ongoing discussions, the City has taken corrective actions and implemented new inspection and cleaning protocols to make sure these kinds of incidents won’t happen again.”

The city convened an advisory panel, subsequent to the wastewater discharges, at the request of the Los Angeles Regional Water Board, to investigate the incident and provide recommendations to prevent a recurrence. The corrective actions taken by the city have convinced the regional water board that such incidents will not occur in the future.

The $2.2 million settlement will be disbursed in three ways — $1.131 million that will be deposited in the State Water Board Cleanup and Abatement Account. The Stormwater Quality Improvement and Infiltration (SQII) supplementary environmental projects (SEP) and the Environmental Cleanup and Awareness (ECA) SEP, led by Heal the Bay, will share the remaining funds.

The SEP will be implemented in locations that drain to Santa Monica Bay to treat and improve the quality of stormwater discharges by SQII. The ECA and its 11 partner grassroots community-based organizations and environmental groups will implement their SEP by doing inland river and coastal cleanups, outreach activities and providing water literacy education.