PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. - About 900 gallons of human waste ended up in the Monterey Bay on Sunday evening. We went to find out what's being done to prevent situations like this from happening again, especially in a nationally protected marine life sanctuary?
The Monterey County Environmental Health Department said it all started at a house on David Avenue in Monterey on Sunday night. A sewage line backed up and after a plumber broke it open, nearly 900 hundred gallons of raw sewage traveled down a storm drain into the Monterey Bay. The spill prompted county officials to close Lover's Point Beach.
On Monday night we discovered there's not any video of any signs or warnings saying the beach is closed. People who live near the beach say that's not usually the case.
"If you're coming down towards the beach there'll be a sandwich board and it tells you that there's a health advisory warning," said Pacific Grove resident Corina Cully.
Cully said it's very common to hear about a high bacteria warning at Lover's Point. The county health department said that's because of the marine life and bacteria from storm runoff. But she said not having any posted signs about a sewage spill, is a bit disconcerting.
"It really worries me not knowing now what's happening because it could make people sick, but what could happen in the future," Cully said.
We spoke with a Moss Landing researcher by phone who said 900 gallons isn't enough to affect the kelp forest but sea otters can get sick because they clean their fur. The county said water contaminated with sewage can cause gastrointestinal infections or other water borne illnesses.
Researchers at Stanford University said it's not just the water you need to be worried about. Certain levels of bacteria are also found in the sand. In 2007, researchers found evidence of human waste at Lover's Point. The study also states there's a storm drain about 250 feet away from the beach.
The county said the Monterey Public Works Department has a valve nearby that's supposed to keep sewage from spilling into the ocean. But county crews discovered Monday morning that valve wasn't working properly.
"I think it's necessary for people to know because then we can make choices whether or not we want to go in the water," Cully said.
Even though there aren't any signs at lover's point, the county said the beach is closed until the water is found to be safe. The contaminated area will be tested again Wednesday if it doesn't rain between now and then.