Skip to content (press enter)


County Officials Lag on Imperial Beach Closure

Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter

Contact: Mark West
Phone: (619) 307-9247

County Officials Lag on Imperial Beach Closure Following Sewage Spill

San Diego, California - As the rain fell last night throughout San Diego County, surfers and ocean enthusiasts were reminded that officials advise against ocean contact for 72 hours after a rain event.  However, if you are a South County ocean user you have more to worry about than urban runoff.

Last week a sewage spill, resulting from a software malfunction at the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) treatment plant, caused an estimated 60 million gallons of untreated sewage to flow into the Tijuana River. Additionally, during dry weather, IBWC’s counterpart in Mexico Comision Internacional de Limites y Aguas (CILA) is responsible for diverting sewage flows to the sewage treatment plant south of Playas de Tijuana. Unfortunately, due to the malfunction, both
diverting systems are failing to collect and treat cross-border sewage, which is causing the Tijuana River flow to increase dramatically. This increased sewage tainted flow is being discharged directly into the Pacific Ocean just South of Imperial Beach.

Tragically, neither the IBWC nor county water officials deemed it necessary to alert the public of the sewage spill and malfunction. The closing of the beach yesterday was the first time ocean goers would have been made aware of the Tijuana River sewage contamination which started on April 4th.

Local Imperial Beach resident and Surfrider Foundation volunteer Mark West proclaimed, “If I had known about the sewage spill I wouldn’t have surfed the river mouth on Monday evening and the south side of the pier on Tuesday. I just wish someone would have informed the public.”

Until recently, surfers in Imperial Beach have been sparred from the sewage because of the current and wind direction, which forces the effluent to head south. That all changed on Tuesday morning when the wind and current direction changed to a more southerly direction, towards Imperial Beach. The Department of Environmental Health has been testing on a daily basis and officially closed the beach on Tuesday afternoon.

For more information please contact Mark West at (619) 307-9247 or


The Voice of San Diego's Rob Davis wrote a compelling article on this issue titled Sewage Flowed Freely Without Warning, which was posted on Wednesday, April 11th 2012.  To access the complete article click here.

 The UT's Mike Lee also wrote an article on this issue titled Major sewage spill fouls South County, which was posted on Thursday, April 12th 2012.  To access the complete article click here.