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In San Diego, power is on, but many beaches are closed

September 09, 2011|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

The lights may be on in San Diego, but now some of its most popular beaches are closed through the weekend.

Thursday’s massive power outage led to a spill of an estimated 1.9 million gallons of sewage into the Los Penaquitos Lagoon, authorities said, prompting the closure of beaches from Scripps Pier (in the La Jolla Shores area) north, including the popular swimming and surfing areas of Black's Beach in La Jolla, Del Mar and Solana Beach. From Cardiff north to Encinitas and beyond, beaches remain open.

A much smaller stretch of shoreline is closed in San Diego County’s South Bay area.

Darren Pudgil, spokesman for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, estimated that the northern closure covered 10 miles of shoreline. New  information on the beaches’ status would be posted at www.sandiego.gov, he said.

The incidents leave most San Diego beaches unaffected, including Coronado, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and most La Jolla beaches (although county officials do warn of "ongoing contamination by harbor seals" at the Children's Pool area of La Jolla). This map from San Diego Coast Keeper shows affected and unaffected areas.

"The closure is going to last throughout the weekend," said Mark McPherson, chief of land and water quality for the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. "We're taking samples each day. Based on results we may open some beaches, but that won't happen until Monday morning at earliest. We like to have two consecutive clean samples."

McPherson said the samples are tested for bacteria and measured against state safety standards.

McPherson said the sewage escaped from San Diego Metropolitan Wastewater Pump Station #64 on Roselle Street into the Los Penasquitos Lagoon, just north of Torrey Pines State Park, and that it was discovered about 5:50 p.m. Thursday. He said the spillage was stopped about 9:25 p.m., some 215 minutes later, after the restoration of power. Though initial estimates of the spill went as high as 3.2 million gallons, McPherson said, further analysis yielded a figure of 1.9 million.

The second spill, about 7 miles south of downtown San Diego, occurred where the Sweetwater River flows into San Diego Bay, just north of Chula Vista and south of National City. Officials said Pump Station #1 spilled about 125,000 gallons of sewage there, forcing beach closures and placement of “contamination” warning signs at Bayside Park in Chula Vista and the bay side of the Silver Strand, the finger of land that connects Coronado to the mainland.

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