Water sports enthusiasts at North Star Beach in Newport Beach are being greeted by warning signs, thanks to a sewage spill, though many rowers and paddlers are going into the Back Bay as usual.

The beach was closed Thursday to swimming and diving after a blockage of a city sewer main caused about 750 gallons of wastewater to spill, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

However, it hasn’t deterred many of the regulars who pass through the Newport Aquatic Center at the beach.

“We are still allowing people to go into the water if they wish,” said NAC staff administrator
Sydney Moralice, who added that anyone who comes in is informed of the closure.

City officials told NAC administrators that the spill occurred Tuesday, Moralice said.

Incidental splashing isn’t considered a major hazard for rowers and paddlers, Moralice said.

“We haven’t been busy as it is,” Moralice said, noting the overcast weather Thursday, “so we haven’t turned anyone away because of it.”

The city posted signs on the beach saying the water is closed to swimming and diving, NAC said.

Junior rowing practice was underway as usual Thursday, though athletes were given the choice not to go on the water, particularly if they had open cuts or other wounds, NAC said.

An average of 300 people pass through the facility daily on their way to the bay, including rowers, members and rental patrons, NAC said.

There were no reported changes in the water or a noticeable indication of a spill in the area in the days leading to the closure, according to Moralice, who said she checks water quality reports daily.

The sewage spill occurred at about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Jamboree and San Joaquin Hills roads, according to Health Care Agency spokesman Anthony Martinez.

The blockage was cleared within about 20 minutes, but about 750 gallons of wastewater flowed from a manhole, Martinez said.

About 250 gallons were captured, but the rest entered drains leading to the bay near the end of San Joaquin Hills Road, Martinez said.

North Star Beach is the closest public beach and testing site to the area where the spill occurred. The beach is sampled weekly.

“If today’s results come back clean, we could potentially be lifting closure tomorrow,” Martinez said Thursday.

The most recent ocean water reports can be found at OCBeachInfo.com. To report a swimming-related illness, call (714) 433-6011.

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