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EPA Wants To Spend $300 Million For Border Sewage Problem

A surfer rides a wave in Imperial Beach in San Diego, Calif., Friday, March 2...

Photo by Elliot Spagat / AP

Above: A surfer rides a wave in Imperial Beach in San Diego, Calif., Friday, March 2, 2018, behind a sign warning of the sewage-contaminated water from the Tijuana River Valley.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed spending $300 million to address the problem of toxic sewage flowing across the border into San Diego County, legislators announced Tuesday.

The money would be part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act, and will be used for the engineering, planning, design and construction of wastewater infrastructure at the border, officials said.

"San Diegans have suffered too long from the regular flow of raw sewage into our country from Mexico. With the full $300 million, the EPA can now lead a comprehensive and coordinated effort with the local community to build much-needed wastewater infrastructure for the region," read a joint statement from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, Reps. Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas, all D-San Diego, and Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano. "The health and safety of California's border communities must be a top priority for everyone involved. We will continue to work with local communities, the state and federal agencies to finally bring some relief to San Diego County."

In February, the Government Accountability Office released a report stating that the International Boundary and Water Commission lacked the coordination and effectiveness to solve the problem.

The office found that Congress should consider providing direction and authorization for the commission to take action to resolve the water quality problems associated with "transboundary stormwater flows -- including identifying alternatives, cost estimates, funding sources, and time frames, in coordination with federal, state, and local partners."

The congressional delegation also announced Tuesday that it has secured an additional $25 million for the EPA's border water infrastructure program, and authorization for the North American Development Bank to fund additional projects related to water pollution and wastewater treatment.

The agreement requires that the secretary of state create an interagency plan to address the effects of toxic cross-border flows on communities in the United States, and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection submits a report on efforts to protect its agents from toxic cross-border flows.

"This is a positive step toward alleviating cross-border sewage spills affecting California. Our work, however, is far from over. In the best interest of the general public, we must continue taking meaningful action towards addressing transboundary sewage flows from flowing into the United States," the statement reads.

The expenditures still require approval from the full Congress.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

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California wants restaurants to screen guests for symptoms, have servers wear masks and keep diners at least 6 feet apart under guidance released Tuesday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Tijuana Mayor Arturo González Cruz announced a new regional binational working group focused on tracking ... Read more →

Aired: May 13, 2020 | Transcript

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