Beach Closures

Coronado Mayor Questions San Diego County's Confusing New Water Testing Program

Mayor Richard Bailey said the county keeps changing the rules

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Mayor of Coronado said Tuesday he has no confidence in the County of San Diego’s new water testing program.

“At this point, we’re beyond frustrated. We really can’t seem to get a straight answer from the county,” said Mayor Richard Bailey.

Bailey spoke to NBC 7 after questions were raised about the cancellation of a couple events in the water off Coronado’s beaches recently. He said the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health’s new DNA-based water testing program of the H2O along San Diego County’s coast is unpredictable and inconsistent. He said that led Coronado to cancel some swimming events because there was a “50/50 chance the beaches will be closed.”

“During the entire summer months, our entire shoreline has been closed for roughly a third of the days, closed or under advisory for roughly a third of the days,” explained Bailey. “I don’t even think the county believes in their own test anymore because they’ve changed the policy around closing down our beaches three times in the past three months.”

He argued the water along the coast Tuesday met the same standards of every summer for the past few decades.

“The only change between this summer and all previous summers is the County’s new testing,” said Bailey. “So, we’re questioning the veracity of the new test, but really whether or not the county is using the appropriate threshold for closing down beaches.”

“We want to know what’s in the water, and we want to know in a timely manner,” explained Elise Rothschild.

Rothschild is a registered environmental health specialist for the County of San Diego. She argued the new testing is only for advisories and warnings about the water.

“We issue an advisory when the water exceeds the state health standards, and we issue a warning when the water exceeds the state health standards and there’s a south swell,” she explained.

That south swell often carries raw, toxic sewage from the waters off Tijuana to Imperial Beach, the Silver Strand, and Coronado. It is the root of the problem plaguing San Diego County beaches. The infrastructure in Tijuana is failing and raw sewage is regularly dumped into the rivers and bodies of water.

“This new method does not increase the number of beach closures. A beach closure occurs as per state law when we are notified of a sewage release,” said Rothschild.

Bailey questioned that explanation. He said Coronado’s beaches were closed in June when no sewage warnings were announced. He said there was only the daily testing.

“First and foremost, we really just want to make sure that we’re getting the answer to this question about water quality correct,” added Bailey. “We’ve got to get this testing situation figured out.”

San Diego County is the first county in the United States to deploy this DNA-based testing.

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