Contamination warning signs will be posted along banks of the New River

June 20, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Big signs will soon be posted along the toxic banks of the New River to warn children and border-crossers of the river's contaminated water and river bottom.

Exactly 100 signs will be purchased and installed by the New River Committee, a Calexico-based non-profit group trying to raise funds so it can pipeline the New River from the border to Highway 98 and educate Imperial Valley residents of the river's condition.

The decision to buy the signs was made at Wednesday's meeting of the committee's board of directors.

The board didn't settle on the language they want to see on the signs but that decision should be finalized soon.


Depending on how the signs are spaced they might extend all the way along the river to Seeley.

The New River is one of the most polluted waterways in the country, according to studies conducted by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The New River is polluted by pathogens as indicated by fecal coliforms and E. coli bacteria, according to a quality control board study.

People who have floated in the river or wade in its waters can be affected by nausea, lung irritation, skin rash, vomiting and dizziness.

A study by North Carolina State University indicated repeated exposure to compounds in the river could result in cancer, liver and kidney damage, disorders of the nervous system, damage to the immune system and birth defects.

During the committee's board meeting, City Councilman David Ouzan, the council's board liaison, looked over a photo copy that contained a mock-up of the new sign and he noticed, "You didn't put ‘no diving' on there."

Striking a serious note, Ouzan said the board could consider putting a skull and crossbones on the signs to really drive home the point as to the river's unhealthy condition.

Committee founder Luis Estrada, Calexico's wastewater plant and airport manager, said the signs were necessary because he has seen kids playing down near the river and riding around there on bikes.

Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 Director Rudy Maldonado, New River Committee chairman, asked Estrada if the foundations which have given the committee some funding already would allow it to build a BMX bicycle park near Nosotros Park to keep kids out of the river bottom. The park is located just north of the river bottom across the river from the Calexico International Airport.

Estrada said the board could consider doing something like that.

Ouzan said the best way to keep people out of the river is to build a fence.

Steve Martin of the U.S. Border Patrol, the patrol agent in charge of Calexico, said a fence wouldn't work.

"And he's an expert," Estrada said.

Director Javier Alatorre, a former Calexico city councilman, and mayor said he had looked into building a BMX park during his time on the council and still had the information. He said it would only cost around $15,000.

Ouzan said he would bring it to the council and see if it wanted to partner up.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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