Hyperion raw sewage spill: 1 month later, pungent smell continues to afflict El Segundo residents

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (KABC) -- People in and near Playa Del Rey are used to seeing the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant. They've only recently had to adjust to smelling it.

"Imagine the hottest summer day and you went to a Porta Potty because you couldn't wait -- that's the smell," said Chia-Ming Ro, who lives less than two miles from the plant, in El Segundo.

On July 11, the plant broke down, flooded and spilled 17 million gallons of partially treated water into the Pacific Ocean.

"We all saw the news that there was a spill, and then we started smelling it," said Ro. "Then it very quickly seemed like there was a bigger issue here."

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A Department of Public Works spokesperson said the air and water quality are improving every day, with the partially treated water spilling five miles offshore.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is conducting its own investigation regarding the smell, and in one month received 1,736 complaints from people reporting nausea, headaches, congestion and discomfort.

Ro says it's particularly noticeable at night.

"We think it's safe to open our windows and then all of a sudden we get that really pungent, like, makes your eyes tear smell, and we have to run around closing our windows," said Ro.

Los Angeles Sanitation District officials spoke at a City Council meeting on Tuesday. In it, they promised a thorough review within 90 days, explaining what went wrong and what it learned, adding that most of the equipment is back online.

"We are in great shape to fully recover and get back to normal efficiency in the next coming weeks," said Thmeyin Dafeta, the plant's executive manager.

The City of Los Angeles has offered to reimburse people who feel affected. Reimbursements include a hotel room, air conditioning, or an air purifier. File a request here.
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