An estimated 250,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the Los Angeles River and out into the waters of Long Beach Harbor and San Pedro Bay on Friday morning prompting beach closures in those communities and with temperatures estimated to stay in the 70s this weekend, crowds are expected to gather on Santa Monica’s beaches that will remain open.

The problem began in Downey and according to the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD), equipment from one of its maintenance crews malfunctioned and caused a temporary blockage in the waste pipe. This resulted in a sizable sewage overflow into the street at Burns and Rives Avenues. The flood of fecal matter flowed into storm drains and ultimately out of the mouth of the Los Angeles River.

“Although our staff worked to set up containment to prevent sewage from reaching receiving waters, we estimate that 250,000 gallons of sewage reached the Los Angeles River before our crews could fully contain the sewage that spilled into a local storm drain,” the LACSD said in a statement.

“Local public health officials have been notified and are expected to close local beaches as a safety precaution. Our crews will be sampling water in the river and ocean for signs of bacteria to help officials determine when it is safe to reopen beaches.”

The spill was contained at 11:40 a.m. on Thursday, according to officials, but all open coastal swimming areas in Long Beach were temporarily closed by order of Long Beach City Health Officer, Dr. Anissa Davis.

While this unpleasant business is affecting the popular tourist spots around Long Beach, the beaches of Santa Monica will remain open and should be unaffected.

Bryan Langpap, LACSD Public Information Manager, says, “Long Beach Public Health made a determination yesterday to close their beaches as a safety precaution. Their process is to sample the waters and they want to see two straight days where the water levels are clean and meet state standards before they will reopen a beach.

“They’re not going to start sampling now, they’ll start sampling Monday. Likewise, LA County Department of Public Health will have made a determination and if Santa Monica is open, then it’s safe.”

While some local beaches (such as the Pier and near storm drains) are perpetually under bacteria warnings, those areas are still open and the and their poor performance is systemic, not due to any pollution events in other parts of Los Angeles.

Langpap says that the ocean floor is relatively shallow near Long Beach and then gets much deeper nearer Rancho Palos Verdes, which could help carry the waste away from the coast.

“We’re sorry to hear about those being affected by the beach closures in Long Beach,” says Misti Kerns, President and CEO of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism. “As they are working hard to protect the health and safety of the residents, visitors and natural habitats, we welcome those that are impacted to Santa Monica, to make the most of the warm weekend.

“We encourage travelers to plan ahead, utilize public transportation and enjoy our beaches responsibly, as we prepare for an influx of beachgoers,” Kerns added.

“I think everyone’s already here,” says Andrew Thomas, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

“I’d be interested to hear after this weekend from some of the hoteliers just what kind of weekend they experienced. Because judging by the foot traffic that I’m seeing [this afternoon] people have already begun their weekend in Santa Monica.”

Jennifer Taylor, Economic Development Manager for the City of Santa Monica, expects Downtown to be “heaving” this weekend. “This time of year, as we’re enjoying the start of the spring-summer season, residents from all over the region and the Los Angeles area will make their pilgrimage to Santa Monica to enjoy our beautiful beach.”

State law requires temporary closure and posting at beaches out of an abundance of caution in situations like this until the water quality meets state requirements.

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.