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Report: Border Patrol Agents Sickened By Sewage Spills Nearly Triples Since June

The research station that monitors water conditions in the Tijuana River Estuary every 15 minutes, sending information to a satellite on Sept. 5, 2017
Erik Anderson
The research station that monitors water conditions in the Tijuana River Estuary every 15 minutes, sending information to a satellite on Sept. 5, 2017
Report: Border Patrol Agents Sickened By Sewage Spills Nearly Triples Since June
Report: Border Patrol Agents Sickened By Sewage Spills Nearly Triples Since June GUEST: Barbara Zaragoza, freelance reporter

The number of border patrol agents getting sick from sewage triples and disparities and each California county. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Monday, December 4. Our top story midday edition as cities in the South Bay move forward with their effort to sue over repeated sewage spills from Tijuana the number of U.S. border patrol agents say they are making them sick. A report says that number has tripled. The acting head is keeping an updated count of the complaints. Joining me is Barbara Zaragoza . Welcome to the program.Thank you.When agents the other getting sick, how have they described her symptoms to you?Well, when I was there with them some have mild symptoms like nasal problems, but others are disturbing. Rashes and then one agent said that he was in the hospital for burned longs. What happened is there is a methane that comes out from feces and he had briefed that an and needed to go to the hospital to get antibiotics.How are the agents coming and contact with the sewage?Well, this is interesting. There had been rain on November 7 and by November 10 there was a large amount of sewage everywhere. So they are in the SUVs and ATVs and having to walk around. They can avoid it. It is everywhere. And addition what they told me is once all that sewage tries, it dries into -- there is dirt that is tried and as you walk through it, the test goes up and goes into the nasal passages.They had a stop patrolling tell us about that.That is right. He was a very big guy and had gone on a tour in Iraq so this is not someone that is used to getting sick. He had said that he had gotten so sick and had been in the ER in the urgent care so many times that he had to get off ATVs and said that is health was more important and how to go back to it SUV because of it.You report that the acting Commissioner visited the Imperial Beach station this summer to look into the situation. You know what came out of that visit?Well, that was reported to me by the union official. And as I was asking what they have done to address this issue because from June until now the number has gone from 30 to more than 83. I asked him that and he explained that the acting Commissioner had come and talk to him personally for an hour and 15 minutes and that he was getting updates. Further than that, I was not sure.What can the border patrol agency do about this problem?Well, that is what Christopher was explaining to me is that he was think that border patrol isn't the EPA and they are not there to look at issues of contamination. So the real question is who is the one that is supposed to oversee this contamination? What organization is at the EPA? Should be homeland security? Who does oversee this contamination and who was responsible for cleaning this up?When you spoke with the union, there was some mention that there'd been discussion about building the company -- decontamination showers. Do they see that as a solution?He so far does not see that as a solution because they are not sure what is in the water. He explained that we don't know what we are decontaminating for so we can't talk about it and general until we find out what is in the water. And that is when the water commission comes and.Cities in the South Bay are in the process of taking legal action against the international boundary and water commission for not doing enough to monitor and mitigate the spells. -- Spills. Are they working on any changes?Yes. I was asking Steve a lot of questions on that. He is working with the San Diego regional quality water board and they are hoping to start new testing. They are not sure when it will happen. They would like to add four places. He said the Tijuana channel that goes behind the mall and several places like Hollister street where the contamination comes down is not being tested at all. He hopes to start testing those.I been speaking with Barbara Zaragoza . Thank you.

The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents sickened by the cross-border sewage spills in the Tijuana River Valley has nearly tripled since June, according to a report Monday by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Rainstorms in February and March caused hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage to flow through the Tijuana River Valley. The Border Patrol officer’s union reported in June about 30 agents were sickened from those spills and others, compared to 83 in mid-November. Agents have experienced rashes, headaches, nasal infections and breathing problems, according to the Union-Tribune.

RELATED: Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego said in September they would sue the federal government over its response to the spill.

Reporter Barbara Zaragoza joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday with more on the agency’s response to the spill and potential increases in water testing.