IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — The Department Of Environmental Health And Quality has issued a General Rain Advisory for the entire coast of San Diego County due to possible contamination by urban runoff following Tropical Storm Hilary.
Swimmers or surfers thinking about getting into the ocean are warned that levels of bacteria can pose health risks — especially near storm drains, creeks, rivers and lagoons where urban runoff enters the sea.
The advisory is in place for 72 hours and is normal following rain, but it’s less typical to stretch from San Onofre State Beach all the way to the United States-Mexico border.
In Imperial Beach and Coronado, however, the posted signs were not a warning, but rather complete closures.
“For us, we are going to continue to feel the effects for weeks and weeks on end,” Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre said to FOX 5. “The amount of water that this rain brought into our coast, it’s a tsunami of sewage and it’s going to continue to impact our community for weeks.”
Aguirre wants Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a separate state of emergency to deal with the runoff from the Tijuana River Valley, where upwards of 7 million gallons of untreated sewage flowing into the beach turn catastrophic when it rains.
“Viruses, bacteria, other types of pathogens, chemicals, surfactants, heavy metals, you name it,” said Aguirre.
Imperial Beach saw about 2 inches of rain during Hilary, but the upper watershed that drains into the Tijuana River saw 12 inches. All of the debris — and worse — that’s not captured by surrounding vegetation goes right into the ocean.
“If they only understood what’s out there in that water,” Aguirre added. “I visited the upper watershed and on the side of Tijuana, you have slaughterhouses of drainage that are going into the water.”
Still, not everyone plans to head the warning.
Joe Zenteno a longtime surfer, says he’s gotten sick in the water before, but that won’t stop him from getting in a good surf.
“If the surf was about 2 feet bigger, I would paddle out in a heartbeat. It’s excellent conditions. Low tide, nice and hollow barrels,” Zenteno said to FOX 5.