The ocean at all coastal beaches in Long Beach was off limits to swimmers and surfers Monday due to runoff from a ruptured sewage pipe near downtown Los Angeles.
Sewage from the broken pipe entered the Los Angeles River, which carried it to the ocean, according to Long Beach city officials.
The spill caused by a collapse in the pipe system originated more than 20 miles away near 6th Street and Mission Road in Los Angeles, where crews were working to fix the ruptured pipe. The sewer pipe broke around 2 p.m. on Monday.
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Crews were working to install a bypass around the damaged section.
The leak released about 900 gallons per minute, adding up to about 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage by Tuesday morning, according to Long Beach environmental health officials. That figure jumped to more than 2 million by Tuesday afternoon, and the spill could release about 5 million gallons by the time the pipe is repaired, according to the city.
The challenge in downtown LA for crews trying to fix the problem was avoiding shutting off plumbing to thousands of people in the downtown area. Workers had to reroute lines throughout downtown while building a new pipe that could work while the broken one was fixed.
"It's like repairing a 747 while flying in the air," said Los Angeles Department of Sanitation's Adel Hagekhalil. "It's like trying to take the engine apart, and repair the engine while it's still flying."
Beach-goers dipped into the water Tuesday afternoon, despite yellow warning signs along the shore in Long Beach.
"It's very unhealthy to swim in the water when there’s raw sewage discharging in this manner," said Long Beach Environmental Health specialist Nelson Kerr.
The city does weekly sample tests on Tuesdays, but will expand testing this week. Acting health officer, Dr. Mauro Torno, ordered the beach closure, saying the ocean water will be off limits until testing shows the water is safe.
Officials said the earliest the beaches could reopen is Wednesday or Thursday.
City News Service and NBC4's Ted Chen contributed to this report.