As public waits to revisit Laguna Beach’s shoreline, officials test water for oil pollution

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Workers for U.S. Coast Guard contractor Patriot Environmental Services scour Main Beach for signs of oil. Courtesy of city of Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach and county officials are concurrently testing ocean water for pollutants related to the oil spill, city officials said late Monday.

The Orange County Health Care Agency anticipates receiving the results of the testing by mid-week and will weigh in on when oily compounds no longer pose a threat to public health and safety.

Laguna Beach has also contracted environmental scientists with Rincon Consultants, Inc. to conduct its own water sampling at four locations: Crescent Bay, Main Beach, Victoria Beach at Dumond, and West Street Beach. The consultants sampled ocean water last Friday and Monday.

“We will continue sampling our coastline several times weekly and compare our samples to those done by the County,” city spokesperson Cassie Walder said in a prepared statement.

The water sampling costs Laguna Beach taxpayers about $3,500 per day. City officials plan to seek reimbursement for these and other services, as well as staff overtime, from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

On Friday, the sand at city and county beaches was reopened to the public after a hard four-day closure. City Manager Shohreh Dupuis told business owners Thursday that this phased approach would allow community members to walk and relax on the beach.

The shoreline and ocean remain closed Monday. Newport Beach announced Monday that all city beaches were fully open as of 2 p.m. after water quality testing showed the ocean water is safe. Newport also took the approach of hiring a water-testing lab to sample 10 locations impacted by the oil spill.

Among other toxins, the Newport samples were tested for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and total petroleum hydrocarbons, which are indicators for the levels of oil present in the ocean water. Laguna hasn’t said whether its consultants are looking for the same pollutants.

Despite sunny weather, beachgoers complied with water closures over the weekend, Walder said.

On the oil cleanup front, the Coast Guard-contracted crews with Patriot Environmental Services worked through the weekend cleaning tarballs that continue to wash up on Laguna’s beaches.

An incoming storm is expected to bring winds of up to 11 miles per hour on Tuesday followed by a small chance of rain. Beach clean-up crews may have to temporarily stop work due to the storm, and will continue after it passes, city officials said.

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