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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.

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