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Beach Closures Lifted Following Massive Sewage Spill

Krista Almanzan

All beaches along the Monterey Coast are back open after tests results show no signs of contamination from a massive sewage spill. 

Over the weekend an estimated 4.4-million gallons of wastewater mistakenly went out into the Monterey Bay.

The spill was primarily mix of household sewage from things like toilets, washing machines and sinks.  Normally this wastewater would go out into the ocean, but only after undergoing two levels of treatment at the plant in Marina.

Instead, an equipment failure there late Friday led to the raw sewage skipping the treatment and going directly out into the bay.  Monterey One Water runs the plant.  Monterey One Government Affairs Administrator Mike McCullough said the equipment failed to trigger an alarm.

“Basically the reading was showing that everything was working correctly and obviously it wasn’t,” said McCullough.

By the time they realized the problem it was early Saturday morning and the wastewater had made it out into the ocean via the discharge pipe.  McCullough said the pipe discharges more than two miles away from shore.  It has multiple ports to disperse the waste.

“They’re staggered throughout.  It’s not just one big plume.  It’s not close to the beach.  It’s farther out into the ocean,” said McCullough.

Monterey One Water will have to investigate the spill and its effects according to Harvey Packard with the Central Coast Water Board

“When we get that information, we will evaluate it all and determine whether to take enforcement and in what form that enforcement might be,” wrote Packard via email.  He added enforcement could include a fine.

On Saturday the Monterey County Health Department had closed beaches along the Monterey coast.  But late Monday, it lifted those closures after water samples showed bacteria levels considered safe for recreational contact. 

Still it issued an advisory for people to stay out of the water because of recent rain.  Storm runoff can bring other bacterial problems to the beach.