IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (Border Report) — President Joe Biden held an Earth Day Summit in Washington, D.C., 3,000 miles away. On the opposite corner of the continental United States, an environmental group based in the city of Imperial Beach, Calif., hoped the president’s message would bring a more pronounced cleanup effort in the Tijuana River Valley.
The valley is home to tons of trash, used tires, plastic bottles, other debris, and millions of gallons of raw sewage that make their way north of the border from Mexico.
It’s a problem that has plagued this portion of Southern San Diego County for decades.
“It’s a day to highlight all the work that needs to be done,” said Zach Plopper, WILDCOAST’s associate director.
The non-profit has led the fight against pollution in the valley, much of which flows down the river and into the ocean, forcing the closure of Imperial Beach’s coastline making it off-limits to visitors and residents alike.
“We would like to see more funds particularly from the Mexico side of the border matching those coming from U.S. to improve sewage treatment infrastructure for wastewater management or California side for debris and all the trash coming down river tributary into Tijuana River, estuary then into the Pacific Ocean,” Plopper said.
Recently, both houses of Congress introduced legislation to make the Environmental Protection Agency the lead agency in charge of cleanup efforts in the valley.
Plopper believes Biden’s Earth Day summit, which included Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, will shed a greater spotlight on the need to protect the area.
“It’s finally recognized as a binational issue,” he said. “It’s not both sides of the border pointing fingers at each other, now there’s an understanding, a shared problem that affects public health and the ecology of this incredible natural reserve we have right on the San Diego Tijuana border.”
According to Plopper, protecting the flora and fauna in the valley, especially the estuary will actually help fight carbon emissions, something Biden has vowed to do.
“They actually capture and absorb atmosphere carbon that can be released into the atmosphere, looking at Tijuana River Estuary it has a natural climate solution,” said Plopper. “It’s going to protect communities against sea level rise, maintain incredible wildlife and recreation opportunities for local communities.”