Untreated sewage from Mexico causes crisis in California

untreated sewage crisis - keep out of water [screenshot]
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  • South Bay leaders urge state emergency declaration and CDC intervention.
  • Over 100 billion gallons of pollutants have impacted public health and economy.
  • Short-term solutions like air purifiers are implemented but more is needed.
  • Senator Padilla introduces resolution urging CDC investigation.

June 7, 2024 — The escalating environmental, public health, and economic crisis in the Tijuana River Valley has unified South Bay leaders and stakeholders in a call for urgent action. They are urging the State of California to declare a State of Emergency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to intervene, monitoring and assessing residents’ health in affected communities.

On June 4, at a news conference in Imperial Beach,Opens in a new tab. key figures including Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre, Port of San Diego Vice Chair Danielle Moore, Coronado Councilman John Duncan, Dr. Paula Stigler Granados from San Diego State University’s School of Public Health, and Lauren Cazares from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce gathered to press for state and federal action. Their plea aims to address the urgent public health emergency impacting communities such as Imperial Beach, Nestor, San Ysidro, Tijuana River Valley, Egger Highlands, South Chula Vista, and Otay Mesa West.

Health and Economic Impacts.

The Tijuana River Valley has been severely impacted by over 100 billion gallons of untreated sewage, toxic chemicals, trash, sediment, and other pollutantsOpens in a new tab.. This pollution has caused serious public health issues, including polluted waters and airborne toxins, leading to over 900 days of beach closures in Imperial Beach and Coronado. The contamination affects not only the environment but also the South Bay economy, threatening jobs, businesses, and recreation.

Contaminated flows are processed through treatment plants managed by U.S. and Mexican federal governments. However, these facilities suffer from aging and failing infrastructure. While Mexico is working on replacing the Punta Bandera Treatment Plant as part of the binational Minute 328 agreement, the U.S. side requires additional funding and expedited federal planning to address long-term solutions for plant improvements and river diversion projects.

Air Purifiers as a Short-Term Measure.

San Diego County leaders have approved $100,000 in funding to provide air purifiers Opens in a new tab.to impacted communities as a short-term measure. Residents like Lisa Pasa and Joel Arellano appreciate these efforts but emphasize the need for more substantial, long-term solutions to address the root cause of the crisis.

Senator Steve PadillaOpens in a new tab. introduced Senate Joint Resolution 18, urging the CDC to investigate the health impacts of the ongoing pollution crisis. The Tijuana River has been named one of the ten most endangered rivers in America, with communities reporting symptoms such as headaches, chronic coughs, diarrhea, and vomiting. Research from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography linked thousands of annual illnesses to water quality pollution along the Imperial Beach coastline.

Calls for State Emergency Declaration.

Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre and other South Bay leaders are advocating for a state emergency declaration to accelerate efforts in diverting and treating the Tijuana River, the primary pollution source. They emphasize that without a state of emergency, significant relief could be five to ten years away. The declaration would enable state agencies to enlist federal counterparts, bringing greater accountability and expedited solutions to this ongoing disaster.



Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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Laura Bove
Laura Bove
June 7, 2024 4:55 pm
Holy cow, I had no idea at all that this is happening right now. One hundred thousand dollars for air purifiers? Are you kidding me? That lasted a minute! This is unreal; “over 100 billion gallons of untreated sewage, toxic chemicals, trash, sediment, and other pollutants” are running loose in one of the 10 most dangerous rivers in America. A long term solution is indeed needed. Boy do I wish I had a magic wand for this one!
Great article Deborah!

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