California city drops ‘sewage’ lawsuit against federal government

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — With a new avenue to address the decades-long problem of raw sewage flowing from Tijuana, Mexico into the Tijuana River Valley north of the border, the Califonia city of Imperial Beach has placed a stay on its lawsuit against the International Boundary Water Commission.

The lawsuit was intended to force the IBWC — the federal agency in charge of regulating and monitoring water issues along the southern border — to comply with the Clean Water Act and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Other municipalities in San Diego County, the Surfrider Foundation, and the state of California had joined in the legal action but all agreed to the stay.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. (Salvador Rivera\Border Report)

The course of the lawsuit has been stopped by the plaintiffs due to money allocated for river cleanup in the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

“There’s a process now through the EPA to allocate money to fix the problem. … We decided to stay the lawsuit,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said. “We’re going to take them at their word moving the process forward to build infrastructure on the U.S. side of the border and to invest money on the Mexican side to stop these sewage flows.”

Meanwhile, the flows continue on a regular basis.

Raw sewage puddled along Tijuana River Valley, material that ultimate flows out into the Pacific Ocean just south of Imperial Beach, Calif. (Salvador Rivera\Border Report)

“It’s been worse lately, since November we’ve had flows from 20 to 80 million gallons of raw sewage a day flowing into our beaches,” Dedina said.

Dedina’s city has been the most impacted over the years as beaches are often closed due to the contamination in the water.

The nearby Tijuana Estuary is also affected by the sewage, especially following rain storms.

Efforts to dismiss the lawsuit had failed even though the IBWC maintained it is not responsible for the millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage that flow into the Pacific Ocean from the Tijuana area.

Through a spokesperson, the IBWC issued a statement about the lawsuit’s postponement.

“We look forward to continuing to cooperate with the plaintiffs and others to address the trans-boundary flows issues affecting the Tijuana River Valley,” the statement said. “This stay allows the federal government’s long-term planning process to proceed through the EPA while, at the same time, providing for additional equipment for the USIBWC to mitigate trans-boundary flows in the near term.”

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