Sewage spill shuts down beaches near border

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. -- The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health posted a beach closure notice Monday at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Border Field State Park due to water contamination.

“I want to surf tomorrow morning, but I simply won’t," said Marc Emmons, Imperial Beach Resident.

Emmons was all too familiar with the beach closure sign posted at the end of Seacoast Drive.

"I’ve wept over this and I’m not just saying this, truly I have wept. It’s abominable that this continues to happen," said Emmons.

County officials said sewage-contaminated water flowing from the Tijuana River into U.S. waters represents a health hazard. Closure signs will remain posted in the affected areas until testing shows it's safe to go back into the water from Seacoast Drive to the U.S. Mexico Border. Access to Friendship Park at Border Field should also be avoided, officials say, as the park may also be affected by contaminated runoff.

Officials told Fox 5 the runoff was flowing at a rate of 20,000 gallons a minute.  A level considered moderate, but it is still a health hazard.   Usually the dirty water is directed to sewage treatment plant, but officials said the diversion device was turned off Monday because the TJ River flow was too strong.

“How that’s still standard practice, standard procedure is just wrong," said Emmons.

“Go see look at the water, the water’s clear," said Aaron Beattie.

Beattie was visiting Imperial Beach from Spain.  His friends strongly warned him about the hazard conditions, but he chose to ignore them.

“If you look at how many square miles of ocean that you have there and how many contaminates you have, the likelihood is probably very, very rare," said Beattie.

“I’ve already been sick, I’ve had nasal problems, ear infections, multiple ear infections.  I've been in and out of the hospital," said Emmons.

It's why he's part of the movement to fix the problem and he said he's willing to go all the way to the White House for a solution.

“This needs to end, we ask President Trump to get involved," said Emmons.  “Enough is enough, like this is 2018 get it done.”

Residents seeking more information on beach and water contact closures can visit the county's website, sdbeachinfo.com, or call the county's 24- hour hotline at 619-338-2073.