Skip to main content

Federal Judge Considers Request To Dismiss Cross-Border Sewage Lawsuits

A danger sign at Imperial Beach is shown in this photo, March. 2, 2018.

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: A danger sign at Imperial Beach is shown in this photo, March. 2, 2018.

The federal government was back in court Monday, arguing that the lawsuits asking the U.S. government to fix cross-border sewage flows should be thrown out.

The Department of Justice is trying, for the second time, to have three cross-border sewage lawsuits thrown out before they get to trial.

Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the port of San Diego filed the first lawsuit. SurfRider’s San Diego chapter filed the second. And the state of California filed the third.

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

All of the lawsuits call on the federal government to stop the sewage flows from Tijuana that end up fouling U.S. ocean waters.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina is confident that the suits will prevail.

“The facts and the law are on the side of justice. Of environmental justice. Of Imperial Beach and the Port and the city of Chula Vista, the state of California and the SurfRider Foundation. And so, we will win this case,” Dedina said.

Dedina has spearheaded the fight against the sewage flows after a winter storm in 2017 pushed hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage through the Tijuana River Estuary and out to sea.

The International Boundary and Water Commission came under fire from local officials for not reporting the spill and then not doing anything to clean up the mess.

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

The DOJ is arguing that the International Treaty governing U.S. Mexico interactions over water trumps U.S. clean water laws. That is a contention the people suing reject.

“The treaty, because it’s a treaty, as opposed to the clean water act because that’s an act of Congress takes precedent. The problem with that argument we are advancing is that the treaty itself says you have to obey the domestic laws of the United States which include the clean water act,” said Matt Edling, an attorney for three of the plaintiffs.

Judge Jeffrey Miller is expected to issue a ruling on the challenge before Christmas.

If the suits are allowed to proceed they could enter the trial phase early next summer.

Video by Katie Schoolov

The federal government was back in court Monday, arguing that the lawsuits asking the U.S. government to fix cross-border sewage flows should be thrown out.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.