County sewage-spill warning signs that say "keep out" were put up on Monument Road in Border Field State Park recently without the county's okay and without testing the puddles of water.
The bright yellow warning signs about two tenths of a mile east of the ocean are from the county Department of Environmental Health's beach-monitoring program. They mark the area where runoff from Los Sauces (or “Yogurt Canyon”) in Tijuana drains into the park. The canyon is not connected to the Tijuana River.
State park reserve manager Chris Peregrin confirmed that he had the signs put up although the water quality had not been tested and there were no plans to test it. He said that from his own knowledge and trips to the canyon on the south side, he felt certain that the water was tainted.
"It would be irresponsible for me to not tell people who might come in contact with the water," Peregrin said.
Gig Conaughton, the county Department of Environmental Health spokesman, said that the signs are intended for beach pollution: “We posted a closure for water contact down to the US-Mexico Border as a result of sewage-contaminated flows from the Tijuana River," he said in a written statement.
On December 14, organizers of the 20th annual Posada celebration at Friendship Park were told that they could not drive personal vehicles the 1.5 miles from the gate to Monument Mesa because of the large puddles in the road — both because of the danger of contamination and because going around the puddles effectively narrowed the road to one lane. However, the park ranger allowed the group to use four vans as shuttles, and attendees were able to ride to the beach, according to organizer Jamie Gates.
"His stated concern was with the condition of the road where water had pooled, the potential traffic jam it would create because of the single-file lane that would be necessary, where the water pooled and the potential damage it would cause the road with the sheer number of drivers we expected for that day," Gates said. "The ranger did tell me that the water was contaminated as he was describing the reasons he wanted to keep us to just the shuttles."
Organizers, who obtained a $90 permit for the event, were clear that they were not complaining.
"I believe he was acting in good faith and in the best interest of both the road and the other drivers to the event by limiting the driving to just four vehicles" Gates said.
The county was unable to find the signs along the road late last week, according to Conaughton, but he planned to review the matter with the state park.
"[Department of Environmental Health] closure signs are to prevent water contact, not to prevent access to a particular beach or area," Conaughton said. "We will discuss sign locations and the intent of our signage with the state parks staff and ensure that there is a consistent message to the public.”