Laguna Beach reopens ocean and shoreline after oil spill

A group of visitors walks at Main Beach on Tuesday during a closure of the shoreline and ocean. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Laguna Beach reopened public access to the shoreline and ocean at 8 a.m. on Thursday following an 11-day closure forced by a major oil spill.

Laguna Beach and county officials have been concurrently testing ocean water for pollutants related to the oil spill, city officials said. A series of clean tests were critical for officials to reopen the water to wading and ocean sports.

Laguna Beach City Manager Shohreh Dupuis and Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow made the decision to reopen beaches after at least two rounds of water samples found no significant pollution, Mayor Bob Whalen said.

“We went through a careful analysis of the testing and determined the water is safe,” Whalen said. “We’re pleased to get it back open ahead of the weekend.”

Laguna Beach had 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 Orange County Health Care Agency found water and sediment data received from local beaches did not indicate a public health concern for short-term exposures to the ocean.

“Based on the recent results of our air and water quality samples, we ask that our residents and visitors exercise caution if you are resuming recreational activities at our beaches in order to limit the risk of contaminants being absorbed through the skin, inhalation, or ingestion,” Orange County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau said in a press release Thursday.

The sand at city and county beaches has been open since Friday to allow residents and visitors to walk and relax during the oil spill clean-up.

While city officials said the public has generally been compliant with the water closure, a Laguna Beach photographer captured photos of surfers paddling off Heisler Park on Wednesday morning despite posted signs. People who entered the water were contacted by lifeguards and asked to get out, a city spokesperson said. Laguna Beach police didn’t write any citations for beach closure violators.

“We really appreciate the public’s cooperation with the closure and staying out of the water so we could be sure it could be done safely,” Whalen said.

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