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Did the 2013 Labor Day Sewage Spill Affect You? Orange County Coastkeeper Needs Your Story

Advocacy group needs real-life examples to ensure the Costa Mesa Sanitary District is held accountable

ORANGE COUNTY — Orange County Coastkeeper seeks community stories from tourists and Orange County residents who were harmed physically or financially by the devastating sewage spill in Newport Bay that occurred Labor Day weekend 2013. The advocacy organization will use this information at a July 24 Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board hearing that will consider corrective actions for Costa Mesa Sanitary District, which is responsible for allowing the raw sewage to follow into the public waters.

Coastkeeper says it’s asking the Regional Water Board to assess fines against the Costa Mesa Sanitary District for its fault in the spill, to remediate harm caused by the pollution and ensure this type of spill does not happen again.

On August 31, 2013, at 10:30 a.m., the Costa Mesa Sanitary District allowed 77,000-gallons of raw sewage to flow into the Newport Beach bay waters. From Upper Newport Bay to Newport Dunes, the waters were closed to swimming, diving and other recreational uses. The Sanitary District claims it caused no financial impact from the spill, despite the fact that the pump failure impacted the environment, human health and the tourism economy. For example:

  1. The Labor Day weekend celebrations filled the waters with children, families, locals and tourists. The sewage spill may have exposed these swimmers to both contaminants and bacteria known to cause life-threatening illnesses like MRSA, Hepatitis A, Meningitis, Streptococcus, and Gastroenteritis.
  2. The Newport Beach economy took a massive hit, as the City closed miles of beach during the most popular beach weekend of the year.
  3. The sewage flowed directly into Newport Beach’s protected ecological reserve, home to an array of wildlife species and the crown jewel of Newport Beach.

Coastkeeper’s goal is to use real-life examples to prove harm was caused, reinforce accountability and make sure measures are taken to prevent future spills. Coastkeeper says it’s especially concerned about enforcement actions regarding sewage spills from the Sanitary District because this spill was not the first, nor the last. The most recent spill occurred this year on New Year’s Day. “The fact that these debacles occurred on holidays raises concerns about the Costa Mesa Sanitary District operations on holidays, leading to the plausible assumption that they are understaffed on these occasions,” says Orange County Coastkeeper Attorney Colin Kelly.

Coastkeeper is looking for personal accounts to put a face, a name and specific examples of how the Sanitary District harmed its constituents. Coastkeeper believes their stories should not go unnamed and asks that victims of the spill contact them as soon as possible.

If you or anyone you know was swimming in these waters on Labor Day weekend and/or was harmed by the devastating spill, please contact Colin Kelly at


ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit or call 714-850-1965.