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With a solid north swell running and forecast for the next week or so, and with Saturday’s rain and runoff, surfers in Imperial Beach received the worst possible news last week. According to SDSU public health professor Rick Gersberg, who has been taking water samples from the surf zone near the Tijuana River and the Imperial Beach Pier (my two favorite surf spots), the ocean water is a lot more dangerous to human health than I ever could have imagined.


At Imperial Beach, HAV (hepatitis A) and enteroviruses were detected 79 and 93 percent of the time, respectively. At the Tijuana River mouth, HAV was detected 86 percent of the time, and enteroviruses were found in 100 percent of the samples.

That means I run a pretty good risk of getting sick if I surf after it rains in Imperial Beach. And more than 50 percent of the people who come in contact with Imperial Beach ocean water more than once a week have become ill according to research carried out by WiLDCOAST.

Unfortunately, many public officials have continued to downplay the problem of water contamination along the U.S.-Mexico border, even through Imperial Beach closures represented 80 percent of the total beach closures for San Diego County last year.

Of course with the rivers of sewage flowing out of the arroyos and illegal sewage pipes in Playas de Tijuana down to Rosarito Beach (a story that the U-Tand voiceofsandiego.org have totally ignored), our water quality problems won’t be solved anytime soon. And don’t expect the bizarre and corrupt Bajagua project, an excellent product of what conservative critic Richard Viguerie calls “legal bribery” to solve our problems anytime soon. Viguerie argues that “The cost of illegal bribery (see the case of former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham) pales next to that of legal bribery such as congressional earmarks.”

Ironically both conservative and progressive critics have highlighted the corruption of the congressional earmarking culture of which Bajagua is a prime example. Paul Krugman recently wrote in The New York Times that:

You see, outsourcing of the government’s responsibilities – not to panels of supposed wise men, but to private companies with the right connections – has been one of the hallmarks of his administration. And privatization through outsourcing is one reason the administration has failed on so many fronts…Underlying this lack of accountability are the real motives for turning government functions over to private companies, which have little to do with efficiency. To say the obvious: when you see a story about failed outsourcing, you can be sure that the company in question is … run by people with strong G.O.P. connections.

The only proponents of the Bajagua project are the hordes of North County lobbyists the company keeps on its payroll and Congressmen Brian Bilbray, Duncan Hunter and Bob Filner who have received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying fees to support the project.

Luckily, not everyone has fallen under the Bajagua spell. Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña’s recent letter to voiceofsandiego.org points out that the Bajagua project is an example of a public-private partnership minus the public.

Meanwhile in Imperial Beach, according to Gersberg, “Swimmers and surfers could experience anything from stomach cramping to a serious viral infection if they come in direct contact to this level of pollution,” Gersberg said. “It is also possible to contract the hepatitis A virus if the polluted water is ingested.”

Surf’s up.


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