UPDATED: Diesel Spill at Mission Hospital Prompts Totuava Beach Cleanup

Sand near the storm drain outflow at Totuava Beach was contaminated by the May 7 diesel spill at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

A section of Totuava Beach remained fenced off Friday afternoon to prohibit public access to sand being removed by a contractor after a diesel spill at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.

Public access to Thousand Steps and Totuava beaches was dashed again Thursday after about 2,300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the storm drain from an emergency generator’s storage tank at the hospital.

Laguna Beach Fire Chief Mark Garcia said in a phone interview Friday that about 300 gallons contaminated the sand after being discharged from the storm drain system. As part of its normal operations, Mission Hospital regularly checks that its emergency electricity generator correctly functions. During these tests, the generator’s fuel tank is depleted and needs to be refilled by a second storage tank on site.

That system failed at some point early Thursday morning, Garcia said.

A hospital security guard first noticed the spill at the hospital during a routine patrol around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday. Laguna Beach emergency dispatch received a call for assistance around 4 a.m., prompting a response by Laguna Beach firefighters and lifeguards.

“This is an unfortunate accident with the spill of fuel but we were pretty lucky,” he said. “We were able to stop most of the fuel from getting to the ocean.”

Cleanup crews contracted by Mission Hospital plan to be at the site for a couple more days, Garcia said.

The malfunction was quickly repaired, generator power was restored, and there was no power loss to the hospital at any time, Mission Hospital spokesperson Carrie Miller wrote in an email Friday.

“We began clean-up efforts right away and expect everything will be restored by Friday afternoon,” Miller wrote. “Like everyone in Laguna Beach, we treasure our coastline and are committed to a thorough cleanup.”

Because of the lack of vehicle access to Thousand Steps Beach, workers are filling drums with contaminated sand by hand and then transporting those containers onto vessels waiting off-shore, said Mary Fricke, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The filled drums will be shipped back to the Port of Los Angeles for disposal.

On Friday morning, So Cal Ship Services’ pollution control vessel Kenneth Carl was moored off of South Laguna to assist with the cleanup, according to MarineTraffic.com

A wildlife officer and environmental scientist are on scene to monitor the spill’s potential impacts on marine wildlife and their environment, Fricke said.

The spill response company contracted by Mission Hospital is also helping clean-up the hospital campus and impacted storm drains, Garcia said.

The incident reportedly initiated responses from multiple other agencies, including Laguna Beach Water Quality Department, OC Parks, OC Healthcare Agency, and U.S. Coast Guard.

The story is developing and will be updated as necessary.

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  1. So where did the other 2,000 gallons go? How did it magically disappear after it was released into the storm drain? Please find the answer to this. I live right above this beach and have been watching the activity all day from the 3 boats out there. But where is the rest of the diesel? Something doesn’t add up.

  2. As a local SL resident, this equipment failure and resulting diesel spill by Mission Hospital is alarming. it should be investigated thoroughly by the appropriate agencies and followed up with a report to Laguna Beach residents. 2,300 gallons of diesel fuel filling the storm drain and our beaches for how long before the security guard found it and a half hour later called the city? Doesn’t this hospital have LB Fire Department and other necessary regular inspections? This needs to be examined. Tragic.


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