Although the beach was closed as a precaution, the waters off Imperial Beach appear not to have been contaminated by the August 28 sewage spill from broken pipes in Playas de Tijuana. That's what San Diego County Land Use Program chief Mark McPherson says county tests showed.
"As far as the sewage spills go, there was never any contamination in Imperial Beach," environmental health specialist Ewan Moffat said. "There were some high readings at the border fence, but samples taken at Imperial Beach all came out clean."
Beaches were closed for several days after a major sewage-collection pipe broke in Las Playas de Tijuana. The International Boundary Wastewater Commission estimated that 1.6 million gallons a day leaked for the four days that it took to repair the pipes.
In this spill, the county found no contamination north of the Tijuana River mouth (the sewage was NOT in the river, but was in the ocean.) But 500 feet north of the U.S.-Mexico border they found enterococcus bacteria — a bacteria that indicates the presence of feces — at between 10 and 20 times the state's maximum acceptable levels.
"Everywhere else it was well below the standard," McPherson said. "Tests at the northern part of estuary and the pier found no contamination."
The county looks at a lot of conditions, including swells, wind movement, temperatures, as well as the amount and location of a sewage spill to make a decision on whether or not to close beaches.
"When there's a sewage spill of this volume, we usually see contamination move up the coast pretty readily and quickly," McPherson said. "It just didn't this time."
Paloma Aguirre, Coastal Conservation program manager for Wildcoast, praised the county's handling of the sewage spill.
"I think the Department of Environmental Health did an excellent job in responding in a timely manner to this contingency and making sure the health of Imperial Beach ocean-users was protected," Aguirre said.