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San Diego County releases weekly reports on stomach illness in the South Bay due to cross-border sewage concerns

Joel Acedo goes surfing in Imperial Beach almost every day.

He knows the water is contaminated from cross-border sewage — the warning signs are posted all over the beach. But he’s willing to take his chances.

When his grandchildren are in town, however, he won’t let them in the ocean.


“In the morning they’re always like, ‘Abuelo, let’s go to the beach, let’s go to the beach,’” he said. “They’re 5, 6 and 3 years old. So I’m really, really worried that they can get sick at any time.”

Elected officials — at the local, state and federal levels — are facing growing pressure from South Bay communities to stem the sewage flowing north from Tijuana. Solutions to the problem will be expensive, time-consuming and complicated.

San Diego County already monitors water quality and posts notices of beach closures. Now, it will track and release data on stomach illnesses in the South Bay, as residents express concerns that the contaminated water may lead to health complications.

The county will release weekly reports showing data collected from 17 emergency departments. That data will show how many patients had gastrointestinal symptoms or complaints. The county will also provide monthly updates on confirmed cases of communicable diseases, such as hepatitis A, salmonellosis and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.

So far, according to the county, the data show “no significant increases” in confirmed cases or hospital visits related to gastrointestinal issues. Still, officials warn against going in the water in the South Bay.


“While we continue to closely monitor reports of illnesses and await steps to lessen and clean sewage flows, it remains very important for people to avoid going into water that is contaminated,” said Dr. Ankita Kadakia, deputy public health officer for San Diego County, in a post on the county's website.

KPBS spoke to Imperial Beach residents and visitors who said they were glad the county is monitoring and publishing the data on a regular basis.

“We need transparency for sure,” Daniel Weaver, a longtime Imperial Beach resident. “My wife and myself have both had some symptoms of stomach illnesses. Don’t really know for sure if it’s connected (to the water contamination).”

You can find the weekly reports on the county’s website dedicated to monitoring gastrointestinal illness concerns under the surveillance data section.