Imperial Beach

San Diego Beaches Brace for More Frequent, Longer Closures

San Diego County has deployed new water tests that are more sensitive to pollutants in the ocean, resulting in more frequent days-long closures at popular shorelines

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“It’s extremely frustrating. It’s horrible,” exclaimed Jan Baker. “It’s bad.”

Baker was watching the students at her Blue Wave Surf Coronado finally hit the water after Coronado Beach was closed the first two days of camp.

“We were all crushed,” sighed Baker. “We see the water; we want to get out there and we can’t.”

The County of San Diego closed several miles of beach from the border to Coronado for multiple days in the past month, or since it started using a new test to determine if the Pacific Ocean is too polluted for swimmers. Most of the pollution comes from toxins delivered by the Tijuana River near Imperial Beach or via runoff at beaches just south of the border.

“Normally it’s a problem after a rainfall, more in the fall and the winter,” explained Baker. “It’s never been a problem like this during the summer.”

“We’ve never seen closures like this in May and June ever,” added Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

The water of IB has been closed every single day since May 5.

“Crazy, crazy, crazy stuff,” Mayor Dedina said, shaking his head.

The mayor and environmentalist said he wants the county to take another look at how the water is tested before it cripples his city and businesses, like Blue Wave Surf.

“They test daily but it’s extremely sensitive,” said Baker.

“There’s some issues around the science and the thresholds they're using to close the beach that we wanted to discuss with the county,” said Dedina. “But unfortunately, the county has been, has refused to get together in a room with all of us.”

Dedina said he has had multiple conversations about the impact of the tests with the U.S. Navy, Mexican government leaders and federal officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“But the county’s response has pretty much been, ‘Tough luck,’” he said.

A spokeswoman with the county told NBC 7 they worked closely with all the impacted agencies before the tests were deployed at the beginning of May.

“It took nearly a decade of testing, pilots, research, state law change and approvals to deliver for the community,” read an emailed statement from the County. “Over this time, the County has been communicating with all affected jurisdictions, including Imperial Beach.”

“We are aware of the possibility of impacts to recreational programs and are looking at solutions such as non-water activities and alternative locations,” the statement continued. “We share the goal of keeping beach-related programs… operating; however, our responsibility is to protect the public’s health. And this test is achieving that.”

The spokeswoman added they have a meeting with the city of Imperial Beach and other interested parties scheduled for June 21. Mayor Dedina said he requested that review weeks ago.

“But the county has been unwilling to discuss this with us,” he concluded.

“It’s taken a huge toll,” said Baker as she watched the kids run back into the water with their surfboards. ”We’re just doing the best we can and we’re trying to be creative with what we have but it’s really sad and it’s disappointing.”

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