US, Mexico Leaders to Address Tijuana Sewage Spills - NBC Southern California

US, Mexico Leaders to Address Tijuana Sewage Spills

Plastic, tires and sediment are flowing across the border with Mexico and into the U.S. and the city of San Diego, according to the amended state of emergency adopted Tuesday.

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    US, Mexico Leaders to Address Tijuana Sewage Spills

    City officials in San Diego updated a State of Emergency regarding the discharge of raw sewage in Tijuana to reflect that the situation has worsened since they first adopted the resolution 25 years ago. 

    Plastic, tires and sediment are flowing across the border with Mexico and into the U.S. and the city of San Diego, according to the amended state of emergency adopted Tuesday. 

    "This has been going on for far too long and South Bay is not a dumping ground," Councilmember Vivian Moreno was quoted in a written news release after the council's vote.

    Regional leaders representing both the United States and Mexico met earlier this year to discuss ways to end the flow of raw sewage and pollution into the Tijuana River Estuary.

    Polluted runoff likely comes from a Tijuana sewage treatment plant in need of upgrades that would likely cost upwards of $370 million, a study by Mexican officials found. 

    The Tijuana River Estuary and shorelines from Imperial Beach to Coronado are often closed to the public after spills on the Mexican side of the border cross into the United States via the Tijuana River, especially following heavy rainfall. 

    Residents have reported skin rashes, headaches and respiratory issues, council officials said. 

    The long-standing problem has become a source of contention between leaders on both sides of the border as to who is responsible for a solution. The issue reached the courts last year when Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the International Boundary Water Commission. 

    The suit alleges millions of gallons of waste, including untreated sewage, trash, pesticides and heavy metals have been discharged from the IBWC's treatment facilities in violation of the Clean Water Act. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Board and the city of San Diego have also joined the suit.

    It asks the court to force the IBWC to comply with the Clean Water Act and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. But the IBWC argued in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that the agency is not responsible for the millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage that flow into the Pacific Ocean from the Tijuana area.

    The Tijuana River crosses the U.S.-Mexico border just west of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry and travels northwest, through the Tijuana River Estuary and into the Pacific Ocean south of Imperial Beach.