Imperial Beach contamination prompts closure

Bad timing by suspected illegal border-crosser

Tijuana River contamination forced the closure of the entire Imperial Beach shoreline on Wednesday, January 2. According to the county Department of Environmental Health, the contamination stretched from the Mexican border to the north end of Imperial Beach.

But that didn't stop a border-crossing jet-skier from dropping off a passenger at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. The passenger was dumped on the beach south of the Imperial Beach Pier. The man was quickly apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents in plainclothes.

The jet-ski driver turned back to Mexico and got away, while other Border Patrol agents in official SUVs pursued the vehicle that came to pick up the suspected illegal border-crosser. The suspect was the only person in the water at the closed beach.

New, permanent signs warning of contamination were unfolded — they were installed in mid-December. It wasn't clear if the contamination was due to a sewage spill or to storm runoff. The county shuts the beaches whenever water is flowing from the Tijuana River "out of an abundance of caution because the conditions are right for contamination," according to Tom Lambert from the Department of Environmental Health.

The stretch of beach from the border to north of the pier is "the most highly monitored beach in San Diego County," Lambert said. IB lifeguards and health-department staff sample the water, looking for three kinds of bacteria associated with feces.

The Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System shows the water hovering around the river mouth since the rain before New Year’s, but then starting north on New Year's Day.

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