Beaches on both sides of the Mexico-United States border were closed this week due to high pollution levels.
Heavy rainfall on Tuesday carried debris known as “urban runoff” and untreated sewage overflow into the Tijuana river and on into the ocean.
Authorities in Imperial Beach, California, complained that the trash and pollution had been carried to the ocean on the Mexican side of the border, posing a health risk.
In an attempt to contain some of the pollution, Imperial Beach officials installed a net across the Tijuana river, effectively keeping the largest pieces of garbage from flowing farther into their territory.
A brown plume stretched from the Tijuana river valley past the Imperial Beach Pier, said Paloma Aguirre, coastal and marine director with the conservation organization Wildcoast.
“It’s not your typical river where it’s just stormwater, maybe car oil,” she said. “We’re up against bacterial, viral pathogens, toxic waste, chemicals, you name it. We’re getting pummeled.”
Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina took to Facebook to demand recycling and clean-up programs from Tijuana authorities as a means to keep the pollution from becoming more serious.
“The fact that this toxic stew sits there for months and months without being cleaned up is one of the reasons we are going to sue the IBWC [the International Boundary and Water Commission] because much of the pollution that comes through the [Tijuana] river valley (much of which is in San Diego and county property) could be prevented from reaching the beach if we had the proper stormwater diversion infrastructure in place,” he wrote.
The non-governmental organization Environmental Education Border Project, or Proyecto Fronterizo Educación Ambiental, monitors water quality indicators off the Tijuana coast every week.
In its latest report, the NGO found that the current status of the beaches on both sides of the border is of “high pollution.”
In response and to avoid health risks, authorities from both sides of the border closed their beaches for 72 hours, a closure that is slated to end by Sunday.
Beach closures due to pollution are common in San Diego County.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported that the Imperial Beach shoreline is closed for more than one-third of the year on average due to water pollution from south of the border.