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Sewage Flows Continue To Foul South San Diego County Beaches

Pollution warning sign in Imperial Beach, a region that has suffered from nearly constant sewage flows from Mexico since last November.  Picture taken on May 5, 2020.
Erik Anderson
Pollution warning sign in Imperial Beach, a region that has suffered from nearly constant sewage flows from Mexico since last November. Picture taken on May 5, 2020.

South Bay officials are beginning to run out of patience over the continued cross-border flow of sewage-tainted water.

The pollution warning signs have been up most of 2021 on the sand in Imperial Beach. Last Friday, the pollution flowed north to Coronado, forcing beach closures there.

Sewage Flows Continue To Foul South San Diego County Beaches
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

Imperial Beach’s top officials are fed up.

Sewage Flows Continue To Foul South San Diego County Beaches

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“Mexico is still using the Tijuana River as an open sewer and residents of San Diego, IB and Coronado are suffering as a result,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

The cross-border flows are still happening in dry weather.

“We have anywhere from 10 to 25 million gallons a day into the ocean,” Dedina said. “What’s really clear is that the pollution levels are off the charts. If you start seeing the county’s daily testing, which we are thankful for, the pollution levels are extraordinarily high all the way from northern Baja all the way to Imperial Beach.”

This was all supposed to be getting better.

With a nudge from the local congressional delegation, the federal government approved $300 million to address border pollution problems. But the Environmental Protection Agency still has not decided how or when to spend the money.

Clean water advocates say their patience is limited and there could be legal action if progress does not happen by mid-summer.

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The Surfrider Foundation is prepared to revive its lawsuit.

“Our lawsuit is on a 12-month stay, which started last July,” said Gabriela Torres, of the Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter. “So in July, the lawsuit will be opening up again.”

The federal government was sued in 2019 by the Surfrider Foundation, California water regulators, the Port of San Diego, and several municipalities as an attempt to get the federal government to act to clean up the situation.

The EPA is studying a host of options suggested by San Diego County officials. Those options include diversion systems, holding ponds, and possibly another sewage treatment plant near the border.

It is unclear when the federal agency will choose which options to pay for.

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