Earlier this week, a huge batch of sewage gushed into the San Diego River, shutting down parts of Mission Beach and Ocean Beach. It made us wonder: How grody is the water that runs through our county?
It turns out it’s not an easy question to answer.
There are 573 bodies of water in San Diego County that are “too polluted or otherwise degraded” to meet water-quality standards, according to data from the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the Water Resources Control Board. The biggest clusters of so-called “impaired waters” are in Otay Mesa, Escondido and Pacific Beach.
But those numbers aren’t straightforward either, said Rik Rasmussen, a manager in the State Water Resources Control Board’s water-quality division. Water can be polluted without posing a risk to human health, and the list of impaired water bodies only reflects where researchers have tested samples. Plus, there’s some dispute over what’s natural and what’s pollution.