A bill by Democratic Assemblyman Ted Lieu to improve the reporting of sewage spills on public beaches was approved by the State Senate Tuesday, September 4th.

Assembly Bill (AB) 800 clarifies that the entity responsible for a sewage spill has the duty to report it to the public health officer and the Office of Emergency Services.

It is important that the public health officer be notified because he or she is the only person who can close a beach and protect the public health, proponents of the bill say.

AB 800 has been sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will have 30 days to act on it.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that these spills go unreported,” Lieu said. “The public needs to know immediately when there’s an urgent health risk, and the beach should be closed as soon as possible.”

The bipartisan vote was 24-11.

A report released by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller earlier this year showed that hundreds of sewage spills in Los Angeles County since 2002 had never been reported. These unreported spills represented over eight million gallons of raw sewage that affected many coastal areas of Los Angeles County.

AB 800 is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and has the support of Environment California, Heal the Bay and Santa Monica Baykeeper. It is joint-authored by Assemblymembers Julia Brownley of Santa Monica and Paul Krekorian of Burbank.

Lieu represents the 53rd Assembly District, which includes a stretch of coastline from Torrance Beach in the south to Venice Beach in the north.