Sewage Spill Forces Beach Closures

Over 1 million gallons of sewage dumped in Tijuana

Imperial Beach. Good thing there's no swell right now, otherwise surfers would surely risk sickness for barrels like this one. Photo: Ghiglia

A Tijuana sewage spill has dumped more than a million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean near the U.S.-Mexican border, forcing the closure of three beaches in south San Diego including Border Field State Park, Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge Shoreline, and Imperial Beach.

The spill, which is estimated to have occurred about a mile south of the border, was carried north by the currents.

The closed beaches stretch from the border area all the way to the northern parts of Imperial Beach. It's not immediately certain what caused the spill in Tijuana. Although not uncommon, spills of this nature have occurred in the past, with the last occurring in January of 2011 when 30 million gallons of sewage from Tijuana were spilled into the sea.

According to Jesse Ramirez, manager of the Imperial Beach Surf Hut, the beach closures negatively affect businesses in the community.

"The spill happened yesterday and when these things happen, it usually closes down the beach for about three days. Whenever a spill happens, it's really bad for business down here," says Ramirez. "It pretty much shut downs the city as we're so dependent on the beach. Who's gonna want to come down here if the beach is full of sewage?"

Earlier this month a binational commission, citing a recent EPA report, applauded a Tijuana treatment station's recent strides forward in wastewater treatment. "The city of Tijuana is now producing cleaner wastewater day to day than the biggest U.S. city in the region," said Dave Gibson, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to The San Diego Reader.

It's not immediately known when the affected beaches in San Diego will re-open.