SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The Environmental Protection Agency is evaluating 10 proposed infrastructure projects as options to mitigate the sewage problem in the Tijuana River Valley.
The effluent originates south of the border and flows north into the United States almost daily.
Tijuana’s aging sewer system has not been able to keep up for many years and, consequently, dumps millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Tijuana River, which then flows into the U.S. all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The EPA reports that it’s also conducting environmental impact studies.
“We have the most horrific pollution of toxic waste, sewage and trash that comes across the U.S-Mexico border. Estimates say it’s tens of millions of gallons every night,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. “This situation is extremely horrifying, sad, tragic and I get incredibly angry because the United States federal government and the Mexican government let this happen.”
Dedina says he is happy the EPA is involved, but would like to see results sooner rather than later.
“The EPA is studying 10 projects that would help reduce the sewage and toxic waste across the border, but there’s only one that we want that needs to be prioritized and that means building diversion treatment infrastructure on the U.S. side of the border to capture those flows and keep them out of the Tijuana River and the Pacific Ocean.”
According to Dedina, the renegade sewage leads to beach closures that impact the quality of life in his city and in other areas.
“Last year, the southern part of our beach was closed 295 days, this year it’s been closed every day.”
Dedina points out the sewage also endangers U.S. Navy Seals who train in the dirty ocean and Border Patrol agents who often have to walk through polluted areas to do their jobs.
“It’s a good thing the EPA is moving forward in a very slow planning process, but they need to be quicker. We’ve asked them to put in emergency infrastructure to stop the flow. In the meantime, we can’t have three to five more years of flows across the border, we need that action now,” said Dedina.
Money to pay for one or several of these infrastructure projects has been budgeted into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) signed last year. The U.S. government has committed $300 million to identify solutions to mitigate this decades-old problem.
According to the EPA, the USMCA requires the agency, in coordination with eligible public entities to carry out the planning, design, and construction of high priority treatment works in the Tijuana River watershed to address transboundary flow pollution.