DEL MAR — Frequented by dog owners from across the county, the area dubbed “Dog Beach” at the northern border of Del Mar may be forced to close.
Ocean Beach and Del Mar dog beaches are on the State Water Resources Control Board priority lists for beaches in danger because they both frequently exceed state water quality standards for indicator bacteria, particularly after rainstorms.
“After a rainfall,” said Steve Weisberg, executive director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. “We typically see bacterial concentrations elevated from 100- to as much as 10,000-fold above normal levels. That’s not still true at every beach, but certainly you’re still seeing elevations. Typically, elevated levels receded to normal levels within three days following the termination of a rain storm. But with one of these larger storms, it’s kind of interesting, the increased flows do tend to flush the system out, but does it wash it out entirely? No. Even though it rained two weeks before, there’s still fresh material finding its way downstream.”
New testing done by Weston Solutions, a San Diego company specializing in water quality analysis, showed the contamination by coliform, fecal coliform bacteria and enterococcus, are at high and continuous levels in the water’s of Dog Beach.
According to the Weston study, samples taken at Dog Beach, “showed that decomposing marine vegetation, with or without the apparent presence of dog feces, had levels of bacterial contamination that were among the highest levels observed during the entire yearlong study.”
The findings suggest that the presence of the dogs amplifies the bacteria levels present in the water due to the introduction of organic debris — canine feces — deposited at the beaches. The recent reopening of the lagoon may also be the culprit some local residents believe. In addition, several dog owners wondered if greater enforcement of owners disposing of their pets fecal material would help to clean the water and save the beach as an off-leash dog area.