The berm separating the Malibu Lagoon from the ocean breached late Saturday, emptying polluted water into in Malibu, according to a California State Parks spokesman.
"The berm breached somehow, either naturally or mechanically," said Tom Dore, a State Parks public information officer for the Malibu Lagoon project.
Dore, who said he had not been down to the lagoon to see the breach, said he heard the lagoon had been nearly emptied.
In response to rumors surrounding the opening of the lagoon, Dore said State Parks is not responsible.
"State Parks would never do that. It’s an environmental crime," he said, adding that manually opening the lagoon would incur a fine.
The project's contractor, Ford E.C., Inc., has been preparing to put in a dike separating the main body of the Malibu Lagoon from the channels in order to drain the water through a process called dewatering.
He added that the contractor built in several scenarios into the dewatering plan, and that the change in conditions will not require a new permit from the California Coastal Commission.
"It doesn’t stop anything. It moves us into open lagoon scenario for dewatering," Dore said. "We’ll give a call to the Coastal Commission, letting them know it happened. We don’t know how or why."
He said conditions were right for the berm to blow out early in the week when the project started because of an unusually high tide from the full moon. Those conditions were not present on Saturday night, he said.
Wendy Werner, an opponent of the project, said she and her husband went down to the lagoon to see the breach, and did not notice any signs warning swimmers to stay out of the ocean.
"We were down there telling people don’t go down to the water," Werner said.
She added that the stench of the lagoon was overpowering.
"It’s drained. It’s dried. It’s done. It’s disgusting," Werner said.
Werner said she was upset by the conditions, especially green slime in the middle of the lagoon.
"Shame on whoever did this. It had to have been done with heavy equipment," Werner said.