Main line break sends thousands of gallons of sewage into Batiquitos Lagoon

Contamination warning signs to be posted at lagoon

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Crews are continuing to work to repair a broken pipe that caused has led to 27,000 gallons of sewage spilling into Batiquitos Lagoon.

The spill was reported about 8 a.m. Sunday and county health officials posted signs around the coastal wetlands area near the Carlsbad-Encinitas city line warning of the contamination, according to the county's Department of Environmental Health. Those signs will remain in place until samples confirm the water is safe for recreational use, DEH officials said.

About a quarter-mile of the trail east of Gabbiano Lane at the lagoon's west end was closed so Carlsbad Utilities Department employees could make repairs to the sewer pipe break at the Batiquitos pump station, according to city spokeswoman Kristina Ray. Other lagoon trail heads remained open.

The pipe that broke is made of steel and was installed about 30 years ago, according to Glenn Prium, the director of Carlsbad's utilities department. He told 10News it likely rusted and that is what may have caused the rupture.

Once the leak is found, the pipe will be replaced with one made of plastic. Pruim warned that much of what runs underground will also fail and will need replacing in the very near future.

On Monday, utility crews had not stopped the flow of sewage due to a section of pipe still leaking.

In the meantime, getting to the manholes to suck the sewage out of the ground and onto trucks to haul it away was not easy.

"It's very difficult," said Prium. "We have one way in and one way out, so the trucks that are pulling the sewage out of the system have to back down about a quarter to a half a mile, extract the sewage and go back out the same way they came in."

The state's Department of Fish and Game arrived Monday to observe the repair efforts and to make sure no wildlife was being harmed.

Environmentalists with the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation were not worried.

"We have a lot of tidal flushing and a lot of oxygen, so we don't expect any fish kill at all," said Donald Omsted, who is with the foundation. "And as far as I'm concerned, the birds don't even know the difference."

Area residents were asked to reduce their indoor water use as much as possible through Monday to reduce the amount of wastewater flowing into the system. That included flushing toilets, doing laundry, taking showers and washing dishes, Ray said.

The 610-acre lagoon, one of the few remaining tidal wetlands on the Southern California coast, is run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve, according to the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation.


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