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Environment

Swimmers beware: Rain brings contaminated urban runoff to beaches

Melissa Mae
/
KPBS
County of San Diego's Department of Environmental Health beach closure sign posted on Imperial Beach in Imperial Beach, Calif. on Aug. 4, 2022.

San Diego County health officials warned residents Wednesday to avoid contact with ocean water due to recent rain that could have carried bacteria into the ocean and bays.

The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health and Quality issued an advisory that warns surfers, swimmers and other water users 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. Swimming, surfing and diving should be avoided during rain and for 72 hours following the rain event."

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

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The advisory also warns that "many coastal storm drains have permanent warning signs," adding that additional warning signs are not posted for general rain advisories.

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. Access roads and trails within the Tijuana River valley may also be affected by sewage-impacted runoff and should be avoided if flooded.

The water contact closure area includes all beaches from the international border to the south end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach.

For more information, visit sdbeachinfo.com or call the 24-hour hotline at (619) 338-2073.