DEH Warning: Heavy Rain Brings Urban Runoff to Local Beaches

If you’re looking to take a dip in the ocean this weekend, or even go surfing – not so fast. 

Following a period of heavy rainfall, the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) has issued a General Advisory to warn county residents about high bacteria levels in San Diego’s beaches from urban runoff and Tijuana river flows.

Swimmers, surfers and other beach goers are warned that the level of hazardous bacteria can rise significantly after rainfall, according to the DEH. The urban runoff contains high amounts of bacteria from a breadth of places, ranging from animal waste, soil and decomposing vegetation.

Due to sewage-contaminated flows entering the United States from Tijuana, a water contact closure was also issued for the ocean shoreline at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Border Field State Park. The closure extends from the beach-line at the south end of Seacoast Drive to the International Border.

Although there are metal warning signs permanently posted at many coastal storm drains, beach goers should keep in mind that many beaches lacking signs for general advisories are still at risk of high bacteria levels.

DEH officials recommend temporarily avoiding activities such as swimming, surfing and diving in the coastal waters for at least 72 hours after the storm, to minimize exposure to bacteria.

The advisory extends to all coastal beaches, including all of Mission Bay and San Diego Bay, according to the DEH. How long the elevated bacteria levels last will depend on the intensity and possible continuation of the storm.

Officials have also extended the existing water contact closure area at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge north to include all of Imperial Beach. 

Part of the Border Field State Park and access roads to Friendship Park should be avoided until ocean samples indicate it it safe for beach goers, said DEH officials.