Monday, August 31, 2009

Scripps will study how pollutants travel in ocean

IMPERIAL BEACH: Surfers and other beach users are invited to a meeting Wednesday to hear about an experiment that will study how pollutants are moved by waves, currents and tides.

The study by scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will run from Sept. 8 through Oct. 3.

The goal of the Imperial Beach Pollutant Transport and Dilution Experiment is to understand how pollutants such as bacteria get transported and diluted in the surf zone. The information could be used to manage beach closures in California.

The focus of IB09, as the study also is known, will be on dry-weather conditions when the Tijuana River flow is small and beach use is heavy. Scientists will place dye in the water and note how it gets discharged.

The experiment site is from the Tijuana River to just north of the Imperial Beach city limits. The site was selected for its long, straight coastline and history of water-quality problems.

The meeting will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Dempsey Holder Safety Center, 950 Ocean Lane.

For information, e-mail or go to

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Free hepatitis A vaccination offered to beachgoers

— Surfers and bodyboarders come to Imperial Beach to catch the best waves. But if they swim in contaminated waters, they're at risk for catching something else.

Hepatitis A, along with other disease-causing pathogens, can flourish along South Bay beaches as northbound ocean currents funnel polluted water from the Tijuana River into the Imperial Beach surf.

That's why, for the first time, health workers teamed up with environmental protection advocates Saturday to offer free hepatitis A vaccination to interested beachgoers.

Jim Knox, 61, started surfing at Imperial Beach even before the pier was built in 1963. He was one of 75 people who signed up for inoculation.

Knox said everyone should take advantage of the opportunity.

“I've never gotten sick from the water, but I've been lucky. I know plenty of other surfers who have gotten hepatitis A,” said Knox, who was shuttled to the nearby Imperial Beach Health Center for his shot after registering with recruiters. “I think (the vaccine) is an excellent idea for everyone because I know not everyone stays out of the water when they're supposed to.”

Three years ago, San Diego State University researchers reported that hepatitis A was present in 80 percent of water samples taken off the Imperial Beach Pier.

In a 2007 survey, the nonprofit environmental group Wildcoast – a co-sponsor of Saturday's event – found that three out of five regular ocean users in Imperial Beach reported illnesses caused by water contamination.

“Our goal is to educate the public about hepatitis A and tell them that if there are signs warning of polluted beaches, especially after rain events, they need to obey the signs,” said Paloma Aguirre, a Wildcoast program coordinator.

Imperial Beach isn't the only coastal area that suffers from contaminated water.

“You can get hepatitis A anywhere, on any beach. Water flows,” said Dr. Daniel Johnson, a family physician at the Imperial Beach Health Center. “Imperial Beach is just being more proactive about it.”

Hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus, affects the liver's functions. Although some people with hepatitis A never develop symptoms, others may feel as though they have a severe case of the flu with fever, jaundice, vomiting and stomach pain.

Hepatitis A vaccines are safe for children older than 1 as well as for most adults, including those with compromised immune systems, Johnson said. A second booster shot is needed in about six months, and that combination should provide lifetime immunity.

People who couldn't get a free hepatitis vaccine Saturday will have more chances in the coming days. The Imperial Beach Health Center is offering free vaccines until supplies run out, thanks to a grant from the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation.

For more information, call (619) 429-3733.

Union-Tribune Staff Writer

Thursday, August 13, 2009

July 9 No B.S./Coalition Meeting Summary

July 9, 2009 No B.S./Coalition Meeting
Wildcoast office, Imperial Beach
Attendees: Dan, Sara, Jay, Ben, Scott, Paloma, Johnny, Joseph, Danielle, Belinda, Clay, Dick, Ryan, Kyle, Scott, Gavin, Roger

June River Valley clean up - successes/ideas for next year and planning for the Fall Clean up:
Possibly get tools donated next year. Wheel barrows were difficult to push through sand - maybe use quads or three wheelers with a sled? Park Rangers may not approve but they have a gator that we could borrow. TRCC wants to register the Sherwood Forest area for Fall clean up. Volunteer efforts are not needed in all areas, the Estuary has contracted services that go in with trucks to clear certain spots. Need to do more to get local community (surfers!) to come out: contact press before hand, radio announcements (also in Spanish), Tommy Hough. Make an effort to get more school kids and younger people to attend (Montgomery Middle, Mar Vista), first through eighth grade is key. Take advantage of the county and Surfrider’s interactive watershed models for kids that explain runoff, storm drain, etc. And the Estuary has place based education where schools come to them. Get in touch with Boy/Girl Scouts, Junior Lifeguards (they earn patches the like the scouts do). Troubled youths, Camp Hope, people that need to do community service hours: contact Volunteer San Diego and tell them we need volunteers. Contact companies that encourage (and sometimes pay) their employees for volunteer work. Maybe contact church groups, Young Democrats. Southwestern College has environmental programs and a student group that might be interested. Get the birders comfortable so they can get behind the clean up, nesting season ends 9/15, need to coordinate w/ Danielle and Jim Peugh at Audubon Society. Other ways to encourage participation: offer giveaways, after party for volunteers. For Coastal Clean Up Day, I Love a Clean San Diego has inland sites, the Estuary is set up for Border Field and Sloughs, need to email the Recovery Team to see if there is any overlap.

USIBWC Citizens’ Forum: Thursday, July 16th 6:30-8:30pm at the Tijuana Estuary Meeting Room (310 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach, CA 91932) - Various Environmental Agencies speaking and public comment

US Open Sandcastle Competiton in IB - Saturday and Sunday, July 18th and 19th, 10am-5pm, Surfrider will have a booth set up and will need volunteers. Purpose is to raise awareness and education of border sewage and pollution and to recruit more volunteers and potential coalition members. Need to coordinate with Ben and Jay about getting large pictures of trash/pollution to display.

Paddle for Clean Water - Surfrider Education and Awareness Event - Sunday, September 13th 9am-5pm, No B.S. and Know Your H2O will be the featured campaigns at the event in Ocean Beach. Need to create posters and brainstorm other ideas for awareness, speakers, etc.

Green Borders Initiative - Meeting on June 29th at USD to discuss a binational vision for the Tijuana River Watershed. Key members of the coalition were in attendance to discuss issues and goals for a solution. There will be future meetings to plan for the Conference which will be held on November 18-20.

Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team Workshop - Next meeting open to public, Friday, July 31, 2009, Policy Committee Meeting, 10am-noon, SDRWQCB 9174 Sky Park Ct #100, San Diego, CA 92123 858 467 2952,

Clay Clifton: Ocean water program coordinator for city health department, notifies of contamination events, spills, runoffs etc.

The plume doesn’t cause much of the readings and smelly events since it’s three miles off shore and coming from 90 feet of water. It’s the river that’s the problem and has the worst measurements with regard to health risks and it’s only in the summer that it’s not an issue. In the winter the IBWC outfall is not considered because of the impact of the Tijuana River.

Sewage in Mexico has more surfactants (soaps, detergents) and these can’t be treated out, surfactants deplete oxygen so there are limits in US but these phosphates are still used in Mexico.

In the summer of 1998, when river flows exceeded the capacity of the river diversion, the Imperial Beach shoreline was closed to water contact for 52 days between July 1 and September 30.

3 major tasks to be done, 5-10 years with reasonable budget, state funding, raising money, what are the attainable goals?
-keep on agencies and programs, EPA 2012 program, potable water for TJ
-upgrade wastewater infrastructure in TJ
-how to facilitate what’s next on the list, watch dog capability of NGOs
-Ask what the status is of 2012 programs.
-County and city of SD - $ for routine trash and sediment removal

Suggestions for what an advocacy group can do: we can talk directly to elected officials, be aware and keep making it a priority, hold politicians accountable, bringing it out in the open. create awareness, measure problem, gear towards solution. Our groups can be the advocate, testing shows involvement and dedication, invite elected officials to go out with BWTF, show next generation and how their health and environment are connected. Focus: how to collect data and bring to elected officials and media. Links to different studies, data reports and fact sheets

3 samples are collected by the US in Mexico (northern baja) for IBWC, results sent to DEH, no public view of the samples coming from northern baja, put river data on Scripps website during wet season??

BWTF - do a testing at Dairy Mart Bridge and Hollister, follow county protocols, between December and January and give the data to the Union-Tribune, only have to test for bacteria, don’t have to have cutting edge stuff, important to get community out there and making issue more visible and make sure it stays there, keeping it going thru the winter.

Notes from meeting with Clay

-In the Summer, 96 locations of testing, 55 samples collected by DEA.

-Lots of County Politics

-No Flooding during Dry season

-EPA -> Border 2012 - Potable Water

-Wastewater Treatment Plant -> facilitate improvement of wastewater treatment.

-Need to enact watchdog efforts to keep the local politicians in check

-County, City of San Diego are stakeholders

- Montior the bacteria levels in the TJ River (Hollister Street and End of Saturn)

-Data Collectors -> John Van Ryan/ Sheri ??? - Stormwater collectors

-Need to use the spreadsheets with data that comes out of the testing - Use the test results to write letters, make videos showing the efforts we are taking to test and get people involved down there

-Elected officials do the testing with the BWTF

-Historical Data -> 1 or 2 people who can request data (Form letter and phone calls)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Officials at border hail wastewater diversion system

Mexico's discharges won't flow into U.S.

TIJUANA — Two new water treatment plants in eastern Tijuana have been praised as critical for some of the city's newest neighborhoods. But they also created a binational problem: How to keep the treated discharge from flowing across the border and harming a federally protected U.S. wetland?

Yesterday, authorities celebrated the solution – a computerized system of pumps and pipes designed to keep the treated water inside Mexican territory and deliver it to the Pacific Ocean miles south of the border at Punta Bandera.

Authorities from Mexico and the United States gathered amid tubes, pools and motors of Pump Station No. 1, a 40-year-old structure near the border fence that is now an important part of the project to divert the treated water from the United States. Officials said the solution highlighted their interdependence as they address issues in the Tijuana River watershed that spans the border.

“This is a model that we must follow in terms of cooperation between our two countries,” Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán said. The state and the Mexican federal government are sharing the $5.3 million cost.

For years, cross-border sewage spills from Tijuana into San Diego County led to beach closings north of the border. While dry-weather sewage spills have largely been eradicated, wet-weather flows have continued to lead to closures.

With a combined capacity of 20 million gallons per day, the Arturo Herrera and La Morita treatment plants are key to relieving Tijuana's overburdened main facility at Punta Bandera. Arturo Herrera began operating in March; La Morita is to open later this year.

But without the diversion system, their discharges would flow into the Tijuana River channel, potentially devastating the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Imperial Beach. The federally protected wetland is a saltwater marsh vulnerable to freshwater flows.

Oscar Romo, coastal training director at the estuary, said the estuary's ecosystem has already been altered by some freshwater intrusion from canyons near the border. But the new system will avoid further intrusion and “would probably relieve some of those changes,” Romo said.

The new system, set to begin operating later this year, involves two parallel pipes. One will carry the treated flow to be released directly into the ocean. The second will carry wastewater for treatment at Punta Bandera. Currently all the water, treated and untreated, is sent in a single pipe to Punta Bandera.

By separating the treated water and sending it directly to the ocean, the strain on the Punta Bandera plant should be reduced.

By installing the new system, Baja California authorities are complying with a U.S.-Mexico treaty requiring that dry-weather flows not cross the border. That is necessary to obtain funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has spent nearly $40 million on sewage infrastructure projects in Tijuana and Rosarito Beach.

“If they were sending water across, this would be a violation of the . . . treaty,” said Doug Liden, an environmental engineer with the EPA in San Diego.

Osuna said Baja California officials eventually hope to pipe the treated water to the Valle de Guadalupe, the state's main grape-growing region, for irrigation.

“I hope that the efforts at cooperation with treated water and sewage collection systems and the environment could be achieved with public security, for contraband, weapons and cash,” Osuna said.

Union-Tribune Staff Writer