South Bay Cities, Port Sue Feds Over Cross-Border Sewage Spills
Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego are suing the federal government over cross-border sewage spills in the Tijuana River Valley.
The legal action accuses the International Boundary and Water Commission and the company that runs the commission's sewage plant near the border of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Representatives of the Port of San Diego, Imperial Beach and Chula Vista say enough is enough.
"It would be really unconscionable for us not to take action. To let things continue as they have for over 40 years and the problem getting bigger. And so I think you have to use all the tools necessary to get the attention of the federal government and demand that they take action on this problem," said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas.
Drenching rainstorms in February and March pushed tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage through the Tijuana River Valley.
The renegade flows fouled the ocean and created a stench so strong some Imperial Beach residents could not leave their homes. Officials say it is time to make the federal government accountable.
"We are making, legally responsible, the entities that have the capacity and the jurisdiction to address these issues but because of a lack of political will have not," said Paloma Aguirre of the environmental group WildCoast.
Aguirre worries the flows could happen again the next time it rains.
Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina has pushed for the federal government to take action to stop the sewage flows. So far, that months-long push for action has fallen short.
"There is nothing more important to me and my colleagues on the city council and our residents, that we can continue to surf, swim and play on our gorgeous beach that belongs to everyone in the state of California," said Dedina.
He was in Washington recently meeting with lawmakers to talk about the situation in the Tijuana River Valley.
Dedina was hopeful that there might be a chance for some funding to correct the problem, but Dedina said those hopes were largely dashed.
The Imperial Beach mayor called the legal action the city's best hope to accomplish something.