Monday, April 19, 2010
U.S. officials are so concerned about violence in Tijuana after last month’s U.S. State Department travel warning for Mexico, they have decided to risk violating U.S. law instead of sending employees to the border city.
For the last month, the International Boundary and Water Commission has suspended water quality testing at three beaches in Tijuana, where they have been required to test bacterial levels for the last 14 years.
Officials test for fecal, coliform, total coliform and other bacteria, at Tijuana beaches and at a handful of San Diego sites. The testing helps ensure that the up to 25 million gallons of wastewater from Tijuana is not causing contamination. The sewage is treated on the U.S. side of the border and the effluent is pumped four-and-a-half miles out to sea.
Last month, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Mexico.
The warning came out the day after three people tied to the U.S. Consulate were murdered in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas and 720 miles east of Tijuana.
The warning did not advise people to avoid Tijuana. It emphasized that visitors exercise caution due to drug violence there. However, International Boundary and Water Commission spokeswoman, Sally Spener, said the commission decided Tijuana was too dangerous. The agency suspended water quality testing there indefinitely.
David Gibson is the executive director of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Authority, which monitors the International Boundary and Water Commission’s testing. He said it is important that Tijuana testing resume as soon as possible. “The data at the Tijuana sites helps ensure sewage from the International Wastewater Treatment plant is being treated fully and that it is not coming back onshore,” he said.
Spener said officials are trying to resume testing with the help of Baja California water officials. “The idea is Mexican officials would collect the samples and pass them across the border,” she said.
Gibson said the commission could face penalties for non-compliance. “I see this as a blip in our relationship,” he said. “However, if the commission drags its feet, we’ll consider enforcement.”