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Tijuana River Pollution Fouling Beaches

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Aired 4/19/09

(Photo: Pacific Beach in San Diego. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images .)

No San Diego County beaches made the "Beach Bummer" list on an environmental group's annual report card. Nine beaches did get poor grades for water quality. The Tijuana River is not on the list. But it causes most of the beach closures in the county. KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has more.

Heal the Bay gave poor marks to beaches along the border from Seacoast Drive to Border Field State Park. Bad grades mean beachgoers have a higher risk of getting sick with a variety of ailments. Serge Dedina of WildCoast says contaminated sewage from the Tijuana River flows into border beaches. He says the river cause more than 90 percent of San Diego County's beach closures each year.

Dedina: This is something that affects me personally and professionally because yesterday my nine-year-old son Daniel went surfing in Imperial Beach, today he's sick. So, this is a significant problem that affects children and families on both sides of the border, in Imperial Beach and Coronado and Tijuana. So what we really are calling for is a comprehensive plan to clean up the pollution in the Tijuana River on both sides of the border so children and families don't have to swim and surf and play in sewage.

Dedina says a recent report calls the Tijuana River and the beach pollution it causes one of the most serious environmental health problems in Southern California.

Dedina: And it's not just sort of this amorphous Tijuana River pollution. That there's contributing factors including contractors of the U.S. Government not cleaning out collector systems, agriculture pollution on the U.S. Side of the border. There's a variety of specific things that are going into that river that we can actually clean up now.

While some of the pollution can be reduced now, officials say solving Tijuana's sewage contamination problems require a variety of measures, including more drainage systems to capture the runoff from the city's neighborhoods. Without a fix, the flow of sewage will continue fouling beaches on both sides of the border. Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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