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Imperial Beach to Act on Sewage Issue

August 1, 2017

By Mario A. Cortez

In a press conference held on the morning of Tuesday, August 1, Imperial Beach lawmakers announced a new set of actions to curb and treat the problem of sewage runoff coming from the Tijuana River into San Diego County beaches.

Imperial Beach will look to increase pressure on federal officials in order to secure funding for upgrading wastewater collection and treatment facilities, and to attain help in providing immediate attention to the sewage coming from south of the border.

Some of the initiatives being taken up by the City include increasing the capacity of a binational wastewater treatment facility, conducting immediate cleanups in the canyons affected by the spills, and directing the North American Development Bank to fund improvements in Tijuana facilities to increase treatment facility capacity.

“Imperial Beach can no longer be patient and accept commitments to study the issue over the next decade,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. “The conditions of the (Tijuana River Valley) are adversely affecting the physical health of our resident, the fiscal health of our City every day, and are a threat to U.S. national security.”

“This would not be tolerated in La Jolla or Newport Beach,” Dedina added.

Chris Harris of The National Border Patrol Council Local 1613 was among those present to call for action. Harris has collected photographic evidence of the impact that the sewage has had on the health of Border Patrol agents belonging to Local 1613.

“There are as of right now 59 agents who have reported some type of injury or wound,” Harris stated. “One agent was actually in the (mud) and his bootlaces dissolved right off and developed chemical burns. Others have developed chemical irritation rashes.”

The city also announced that they have secured the services of Sher Edling, a San Francisco-based environmental law firm, in an effort to reach a solution to upgrade treatment facilities. The City will also be sending a letter to the International Boundary and Water Commission, stating its intent to file a lawsuit if no action is taken to collect and treat polluted waters flowing across the border.

Imperial Beach has long been subject to the flow of toxic wastewater from Tijuana due to the inadequate infrastructure to catch and treat sewage flowing from south of the border. This problem becomes aggravated with rain, which helps wash the sludge downstream into American waters at the end of the river.

The sewage runoff problem became an environmental emergency back in February when approximately 250 million gallons waste water spilled through the Tijuana River in the span of 17 days.

In Dedina’s second-annual state of the city address, also back in February, he stated that the City was “pushing to get infrastructure built in Tijuana alongside with the North American Development Bank, the Border Environmental Cooperation Coalition, Councilman David Alvarez, and the mayors of South County.” Since then, little has happened in regards to coming to a solution.

While solving the issue might be a long battle, local residents are just glad to see direct action being taken.

“We have dead wildlife in our coastline and the estuary, which is a natural treasure, keeps getting trashed.” said Baron Partlow, a resident of Imperial Beach. “Our waters are so at risk that we can’t enjoy our beaches anymore. Today’s announcement was the action that was sorely needed.”

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