Sewage Contaminated Water

I’ve often seen the warning signs around San Diego County beaches that appear immediately after rainfall warning visitors to stay out of the water due to runoff contamination, but this sign was a first for me. The yellow signs on the bottom warn of sewage contaminated water that may cause illness — and it hadn’t rained in many months, so the contamination was coming from another source.

This particular beach is located within the Border Field State Park just south of the Tijuana river outlet and north of the Mexican Border. Where the sewage contamination comes from, I have no idea — possibly from the river? At any rate, it’s a shame that these huge stretches of beach south of Imperial Beach are completely unused except for a few curious visitors to the state park. Not to mention the harm that is likely being done to the animals inhabiting this area.

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This photo is part of an Environmental Awareness Photography Project. The deadline for this project is October 18, and I’d encourage everyone to consider participating.

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I grew up in southern California and was a beach kid. I can vividly remember the beaches being closed quite often due to sewage contaminated water. It would rain, they would check the water for e-coli, and would close the beach.

I’ver never been totally sure about the cause. Heavy rains means lots of dog poop covered lawns wash doggy doodoo into the storm drains and into the ocean. Not too far from San Diego there are some seriously big cattle ranches (think Norco, pewee). I would think a lot of the rain water (and dung bits) from up in that area will make it’s way into the drainage rivers and into the ocean. And then there’s Mexico right there. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the sewage in some of the really rural areas makes it’s way into the water. There are some pretty poor areas up in the northern part of Mexico.

Either way, I’d hold off on the boogie boarding for a few days. You never know what kinda mouthful you might get when that bit wave catches you off guard. Ew.

September 30, 2008 12:32 pm

Makes me appreciate even more my little corner of the world.
I’ve lived close to the New Hampshire coast all of my life and visit the beach as often as possible. I’ve NEVER seen one of these signs and hopefully never will.

Of course the water’s only 60-65 degrees (On a good day) and you can only swim a couple months a year, but I’ll take it.

September 30, 2008 12:41 pm

@Tim Yeah, the whole coastline basically shuts down after a rain, but usually just for a couple days. These signs were different though… it hasn’t rained practically all year.

@Rich Definitely not a sign you want to see on your favorite beach. Our water doesn’t get too warm either. We get the currents bringing in cold water from up north, so we’re lucky to hit 65 in most areas (70 in a few locations).

September 30, 2008 12:51 pm

No rain in a while huh? That’s weird. Scary weird.

As an aside, I guess I missed the “it hasn’t rained in months” part in the original post. Don’t you hate it when commenters do that? :-D

Hey, who pooped in the pool??

September 30, 2008 12:58 pm

You didn’t miss anything — I added that bit in the first paragraph after your initial comment. After re-reading my original wording, I could tell that I wasn’t at all clear on the no rain thing. So actually, thanks!

September 30, 2008 1:20 pm

No rain huh? After a horrible summer weatherwise it seems like the autumn already really started here. I wouldn’t mind if you would borrow some rain from me and I get back some sun!

I like the saturated signs. I’ve tried taking pictures of signs like that once, but didn’t really succeed.

October 1, 2008 3:21 am


You seriously don’t want to swim in our beaches…

October 4, 2008 3:18 am

Whatever the water is there, it can’t compare to the Hudson River next to NYC.

October 29, 2008 3:35 pm

I won’t doubt that!

October 29, 2008 7:19 pm

Ahhh…I miss SoCal. Well, not the sewage water…but the weather…

November 11, 2008 11:56 am

Sound as though the contamination could well be coming from Mexico. Spent a lot of time in Baja and with some of the things I have seen….doesn’t surprise me at all. What a shame!

February 6, 2009 2:54 am

This problem maybe from a combined sewer system that adds rain (storm) water to the sanitary sewer.After a rain event the sewage treatment plant can’t keep up with the added burden of rain water causing an event like this.Thats one scenario. Depending on the contaminants found, it really should be easy to trace the source.Check with your local Public Works Department and about sewerage over flows.

August 7, 2009 8:04 am

Still…… I think we should have more respect for our planet!

November 19, 2009 1:22 pm

Comment now!