San Diego Closes Beaches Over Bacteria Levels

Ladies and gentlemen, gather around because we have some alarming news coming out of San Diego. The beautiful beaches that many of us know and love have been shut down due to a very unpleasant discovery. City health officials have issued an updated advisory and closure list because sewage is creating dangerously high levels of bacteria in the open waters.

Now, let’s break down what’s happening here. Water contact closures have been issued for Silver Strand Shoreline, Imperial Beach Shorelines, and the Tijuana Slough Shoreline, which are all along the U.S.-Mexico border. These closures mean that swimming, surfing, and other water activities are off-limits due to the severe contamination.

But that’s not all. Advisories have been put in place for several other popular spots, including La Jolla, Children’s Pool, Coronado, Ocean Beach, Dog Beach, the San Diego River outlet, Mission Bay, North Cove, and Vacation Isle. In simpler terms, an advisory means that it’s still okay to visit these beaches, but you should be cautious about getting in the water.

Imperial Beach has a particularly dire situation. Known as the dirtiest beach in the country, it’s dealing with sewage flowing in from Tijuana, Mexico. Bright yellow warning signs are plastered all over the sand. Imagine trying to enjoy a beach day with signs everywhere telling you the water is full of toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria. Not fun at all, right?

Dr. Marvel Harrison highlighted the severe impact of this contamination during a press conference. She said, “The level of stress when you smell the stench when you get sick, and you worry about your children, and the level of stress and the depression is real.” She emphasized that while it’s difficult to measure, the emotional toll on residents is undeniable.

Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre and San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer are working tirelessly to obtain state and federal funding to address this century-old sewage problem. Aguirre stated, “We need our state and federal governments to declare a state of emergency.” They plan to gather all necessary data to make a strong case for funding and support to tackle this unsanitary crisis.

California is home to three of the most polluted beaches in the nation. The Surfrider Foundation found that 64 percent of the 567 sites they tested had at least one sample with unsafe bacteria levels. A quarter of these samples were from California, with Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica and the mouth of the San Luis Obispo Creek being notable hotspots.

Residents of Imperial Beach have had enough. The beach has been closed for over two years due to untreated water from the Tijuana River Watershed flowing into the Pacific Ocean. People like Shannon Johnson, who lives just a few blocks away, no longer step foot on the sand. Johnson’s children constantly ask, “Is it going to be clean? When are they going to fix it?”

Despite more than 700 consecutive days of closures, the residents of Imperial Beach are still suffering. A study by San Diego State University found that the heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and bacteria in the water are not only in the water but are also being released into the air and lingering in the soil. One resident described the smell as “akin to being trapped in a portable toilet,” strong enough to wake them up at night.

The city’s Beach and Bay Program has created a chart to help residents understand warning levels at local beaches. Black and yellow signs indicate sewage advisories, blue and orange signs mean general warnings, and bright yellow and red signs show that beaches are closed due to sewage issues.