San Diego

County Supervisor Calls for Increased Water Quality Testing at Beaches

County Supervisor Greg Cox made a push Wednesday to double the number of locations of water quality tests along the San Diego coastline.

Cox wants to increase the testing from four locations during the rainy season to nine locations, which would help the County Department of Environmental Health detect contaminated water sooner and would lead to quicker beach closures and reopenings.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said a testing increase in 2018 from two to four locations helped confirm suspicions about massive amounts of pollutants from the Mexico side of the border entering San Diego waterways.

"People are getting really sick here. My kids have gotten sick. You know if you've ever taken your kid to the emergency room because they had contact with the sewage, you know why it's so important,” Mayor Dedina said. “Our lifeguards have gotten sick. Our Navy SEALs are getting sick. Our Border Patrol agents are getting sick and so we need to make sure we protect public health."

Rainfall in Tijuana washes into the Tijuana River and brings sewage and other toxic pollutants along with it. That water then makes its way across the U.S.-Mexico border and eventually empties into the Pacific Ocean at the Tijuana Estuary south of Imperial Beach. Northward currents then push the contaminated water onto San Diego County beaches resulting in days-long and sometimes weeks-long water contact closures as far north as Coronado State Beach.

Supervisor Cox’s proposal also calls for "rapid bacteria testing,” which he says would speed up testing by about 75 percent. That means water contact closures that typically last around four days, could be reduced to as little as two days or less.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said Supervisor Cox was pushing to double the "frequency" of testing, not the number of testing locations. NBC 7 regrets the error.

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