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Sewage spill off Balboa Island closes some beaches

August 18, 2012 |  4:27 pm

Balboa island
The waters off a section of Balboa Island remained closed to swimmers Saturday after a dredging company sheared off a sewage line, spilling thousands of gallons of bacteria-laden water and waste into busy Newport Harbor.

The beachfront on the eastern edge of the island will remained closed to swimming at least through the weekend.

Orange County Health Care Agency officials said they will need to see two consecutive days of clean water samples on the eastern side of Newport Harbor, from Bayside Drive at Balboa Island to the edge of the Harbor Patrol headquarters to the south, before they reopen it.

See which beaches are closed

In the meantime, Newport Beach city workers and crews from RE Staite, the dredging company that broke the line, are expected to investigate the break and figure out how to fix the problem.

About 11 p.m. Wednesday, a dredging vessel broke off a 3-foot piece of an 8-inch-wide main sewer line between the island and the mainland at Bayside Drive, spilling about 2,800 gallons of raw sewage into the water. It took city crews nearly three hours to plug the leak, said Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller.

When crews tried to divert the sewage to the city's backup line, they hit another problem: That line was installed in the 1930s, and one of its valves failed to close properly, Miller said.

The city had to shut down Balboa Island's sewer system for most of Thursday and didn’t resume operations until Friday. Newport Beach has since replaced the faulty valve and routed the sewage through the backup line, leaving only the original issue to be resolved, Miller said.


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Photo: The harbor waters off Balboa Island are popular with locals are tourists alike during summer months. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times