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Special Project: America's Wall: Decades-Long Struggle To Secure US-Mexico Border

Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach

The research station that monitors water conditions in the Tijuana River Estu...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: The research station that monitors water conditions in the Tijuana River Estuary every 15 minutes, sending information to a satellite on Sept. 5, 2017

Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach

GUEST:

Erik Anderson, environment reporter, KPBS

Transcript

A cross-border sewage spill fouled ocean waters off the southern San Diego County coast last week and local officials say there was no word of warning from Mexican officials.

A cross-border sewage spill fouled ocean waters off the southern San Diego County coast last week and local officials say there was no word of warning from Mexican officials.

Imperial Beach officials said the stench from the spill permeated the beach area last Friday. Officials saw human waste in the surf line. Water quality tests just south of the U.S.-Mexico border showed high levels of contamination.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said he got physically sick from surfing in the ocean, as did at least three other surfers.

That happened because there was no warning of a spill on the Mexican side of the border and health officials on the U.S. side had no reason to test the water.

RELATED: South Bay Cities, Port Sue Feds Over Cross-Border Sewage Spills

"There's a reason why the city of Imperial Beach, the city of Chula Vista, the city of San Diego, the county of San Diego and the Port of San Diego have filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government because this what we're seeing on, literally, almost a daily basis in the Tijuana River Valley," Dedina said.

Federal officials on the U.S. side of the border promised better cross-border communication after more than 200 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed through the Tijuana River Valley this past winter. Since that is not happening, local officials remain on course to sue the federal agency in charge of the issues, the International Boundary and Water Commission, or IBWC.

"We asked the County Department of Environmental Health to investigate. They asked the IBWC if there had been any spills and the report from Mexico was that there hadn't been," Dedina said

"I also talked to the international coordinator for the city of Tijuana, who talked to the mayor of Tijuana. The mayor of Tijuana asked the sewer agency of Baja California if there had been a spill. They categorically denied it," Dedina said.

Test results of samples gathered by clean water advocates south of the border later confirmed the ocean was contaminated by sewage.

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