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Rain Brings Urban Runoff Danger To Beaches, Bays

Storm drains bring urban runoff directly into the open water of Mission Bay on June 23, 2017.
Matthew Bowler
Storm drains bring urban runoff directly into the open water of Mission Bay on June 23, 2017.

San Diego residents were warned Saturday by county health officials to avoid the water at all coastal beaches and bays because of the danger of dangerous levels of bacteria caused by urban runoff from the day's rainstorm.

"Swimmers, surfers and other water users are warned that rain brings urban runoff, which can cause bacteria levels to rise significantly in ocean and bay waters, especially near storm drains, creeks, rivers and lagoon outlets," the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health and Quality said.

A general rain advisory to avoid water contact was issued at 12:19 p.m. Saturday, said the department's Brad Richardson.

"Urban runoff may contain large amounts of bacteria from a variety of sources such as animal waste, soil and decomposing vegetation," Richardson said. "Bacteria levels can remain elevated after a rainstorm depending upon the intensity of the storm, volume of runoff and ocean conditions."

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Many coastal storm drains have permanent warning signs, but additional warning signs are not posted for general rain advisories, he said. Swimming, surfing and diving should be avoided during rain and for 72 hours following the rain event.

A beach closure will remain in place for the Tijuana Slough shorelines due to sewage-contaminated flows from the Tijuana River entering the United States, Richardson said. The water contact closure area includes all beaches from the International Border to the south end of Seacoast Drive.

Beach closure signs will remain in place until ocean water sampling results meet state health standards.