Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Imperial Beach Mayor Blasts Reaction To Major Sewage Spill

Rain-swollen Tijuana River was the conduit for a massive sewage spill that la...

Photo by Christopher Maue

Above: Rain-swollen Tijuana River was the conduit for a massive sewage spill that lasted two weeks, Feb. 27, 2017.

A massive sewage spill tainted San Diego's ocean and fouled Imperial Beach air and residents are unhappy with the response.

Imperial Beach officials said they were smelling sewage again Monday, but that's probably linked to the weather, not a massive sewage spill that flowed into the ocean for more than two weeks.

Federal officials say more than 143 million gallons of treated sewage flowed through the Tijuana River Valley.

The effluent ran unchecked across the border and into the ocean for 17 days before the spill was finally stopped last Friday.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said the stench was overwhelming at times, but the response on both sides of the border was not.

"On Feb. 15 I sent an email to the International Boundary and Water Commission saying 'Hey, we've got a problem here.' Not just Imperial Beach but Coronado and especially in south San Diego and near the Tijuana River. That was copied to the Mexican government, the consulate of Mexico here in San Diego," Dedina said.

The federal agency in charge of cross-border pollution finally released a document admitting there was more to the situation than just a bad smell.

That disappointed Dedina because he said there are procedures in place for dealing with this kind of situation. Communication is a key strategy that was ignored.

"We depend on federal authorities to notify us if there is. And what we're concerned about is, in many cases, it is me or somebody from a non-profit or environmental group that actually finds out about sewage spills and then notifies government authorities. That shouldn't be happening," Dedina said.

The length and size of this spill is unprecedented in recent memory.

Sewage overflows do happen when it rains, but this was a major spill that lasted for more than two weeks during both wet and dry weather.

Dedina said he worried that the sewage spill ran unchecked because there was no threat of punishment.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.