The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee has approved Assembly Bill (AB) 800, legislation that would strengthen state laws affecting the emergency notification and reporting of raw sewage spills.

Introduced by Assemblyman Ted W. Lieu, AB 800 is based on a Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller report that turned up evidence of hundreds of sewage spills throughout Los Angeles County since January 2002 that had never been reported. Lieu represents some of The Argonaut distribution area.

The largest such spill occurred last year in Manhattan Beach, which is in Lieuís district.

ìThis is a serious public health issue,î Lieu said. ìThese unreported spills represent over eight million gallons of raw sewage that have spread into the coastal areas of Los Angeles County.

ìThis is reprehensible that the proper public health authorities were never contacted in the event of these spills, and that no one really knows where the spills occurred and what communities were impacted.î

Assembly Bill 800 is endorsed by the County Board of Supervisors, and Lieu has been working closely on the issue with Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes much of the coastal area that Lieu represents.

If passed and signed by the governor, the bill will make two major changes in the reporting of spills, by:

– requiring immediate notification of both the local health officer and the Governorís Office of Emergency Services in the event of a sewage spill; and

– imposing fines on sewage treatment officials if they fail to report a spill.

ìIn the event of a spill, the most important thing is protecting the public,î Lieu said. ìIf health officials are notified immediately, they can notify the public, close beaches and begin the cleanup process right away.î

The bill is joint-authored by Assemblymembers Julia Brownley of Santa Monica and Paul Krekorian of Burbank. It will be heard next in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.