Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

California Wants Feds To Address Cross-Border Sewage

A sign displays a warning about contaminated water at Imperial Beach, Jan. 31, 2020.
Erik Anderson
A sign displays a warning about contaminated water at Imperial Beach, Jan. 31, 2020.
Persistent cross-border sewage flows are prompting state water quality regulators to demand action from the U.S. federal government.

State water pollution regulators in San Diego are asking federal officials to do more monitoring of cross-border water flows that could be polluted.

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board issued an investigative order in February that requires more monitoring of sewage-tainted cross-border flows.

California Wants Feds To Address Cross-Border Sewage
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

The order requires the International Boundary and Water Commission to monitor more than a dozen locations over an 18-month period.

Regional Board Executive Director David Gibson said the order also calls for the testing results to be made public.

“Right now this monitoring isn’t taking place,” said Gibson. “During the recent flows that we’ve had, I asked the International Boundary and Water Commission if they had done any monitoring. They had not.”

Video: California Wants Feds To Address Cross-Border Sewage

RELATED: Protesters Gather At Mexican Consulate, Demand End Of Cross-Border Sewage Spills

Observers say the situation at the border has deteriorated since the beginning of last year.

A series of pump failures and clogs have allowed between 10 and 50 million gallons of sewage-tainted water to flow into the United States every day.

The flows happen even when there is no rainfall.

“We’re waiting to see if IBWC will indeed choose to comply with that investigative order, or will they challenge it in federal court or through some other means. We’ll see,” Gibson said. “In the meantime, though, with the permit re-issuance we’re already translating those monitoring requirements from the technical report into permanent monitoring we would propose for the permit itself.”

A state lawsuit asking the federal government to clean up the pollution is on hold, while local officials wait for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether the federal government will help fund major infrastructure improvements on this side of the border.

Meanwhile, the regional board is also in the process of tightening the pollution requirements of the federal government’s international wastewater plant permits, as a way to compel the federal government to capture and clean tainted cross-border flows.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.