Letter Urges State Department to Stop Transboundary Spills into Imperial Beach

Created: 08 May, 2019
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Manuel Ocaño

Both U.S. Senators from California have submitted a letter urging the Secretary of State and other members of Trump’s cabinet to address the transboundary sewage from Tijuana that for decades has flowed time and again into South County.

U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (now running in the 2020 primary) and Dianne Feinstein led San Diego Representatives Susan Davis, Juan Vargas and Scott Peters in the letter, also signed by Orange County Representative Mike Levin.

Together with local officials, the federal legislators urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, o work together to resolve the issue.

In the letter, the lawmakers state that just this past December, after only a short period of rain, a ruptured collector “began discharging an estimated six to seven million gallons of raw sewage per day into the Tijuana River…” for over one week, affecting downstream communities such as Imperial Beach.

The spills pollute California waters with a variety of bacteria and human waste from Tijuana, and after spilling out into Imperial Beach, can be transported back south across the border and contaminate the water and sand in Playas de Tijuana.

“It is critical that your agencies work together to develop a comprehensive plan to address the ongoing pollution issues along the border in Southern California,” wrote the lawmakers. “We urge you to improve monitoring of air and water quality in southern San Diego and Imperial counties, aggressively mitigate impacts of air and water pollution, and encourage activities that cut down on sources of pollution.

The letter is also a reprimand to the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for allowing transboundary spills into Imperial Beach (which border with Playas de Tijuana) for decades.

Every time it rains, it causes Imperial Beach closures for several days at a time due to the contamination coming from Tijuana.

During a recent visit to Mexico City by a San Diego delegation, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina took the opportunity to convey this concern to the Administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The rainy season is the worst, said Dedina, because it does not allow enough time for the pollution of beaches and coastline to get cleaned up.

At least three different cities –Imperial Beach, National City, and Chula Vista – have sued the U.S. government for its lack of response to the Tijuana raw sewage spills. The class-action lawsuit was filed after a continuous spill that lasted for several weeks before Mexican authorities notified their U.S. counterparts, leading to contamination as far north as Coronado.