Beaches in Tijuana were closed Thursday due to pollution, a condition that triggered reports of foul odors and contamination on beaches in both Mexico and the United States.
Officials in Imperial Beach, California, said at the beginning of the month that sewage flowing northward had fouled miles of shoreline, “sickening” surfers and other beachgoers.
Among those who fell ill was Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, who claimed he received no advance notice of contamination from Mexican authorities.
According to U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) officials, the agency’s Mexican counterpart, the Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas (CILA), said there was no report of a spill but a Tijuana-based environmental group had a different version.
Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental did independent water testing on Friday, finding “extremely high” fecal coliform levels in Playas de Tijuana.
Reports of foul odors on the United States side continued through Friday, but when San Diego county authorities performed visual field inspections they found no evidence of sewage contamination. A county spokeswoman stated that had odors been detected, water quality samples would have been taken.
Beaches in California remained open as a result.
The story was different on the Mexican side of the border.The municipality of Tijuana closed all its beaches for at least three days starting Thursday “due to the presence of pollutants” in the water.
A report by the Institute of Public Health Services of Baja California state (Isesalud) determined that runoff had drawn pollutants along water courses and into the Pacific Ocean, triggering the ban on marine activities.
The three-day closure, authorities said, was needed to allow oxygenation of the water and the diminution of pollution levels.
There is a movement under way in San Diego to take the IBWC to court to force it to put more pressure on Mexico to stop the sewage spills. It is being spearheaded by the Imperial Beach mayor.
“We’re doing everything we can to build our relationship with Mexico, but if they’re going to be continually dumping sewage on us and making our council members and our community sick, it’s hard to continue that positive, proactive approach,” Dedina said Wednesday at a news conference.