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Gov. Newsom urges Congress to act on Tijuana River Valley pollution

Tijuana's highway bridges crossing over the polluted Tijuana River, June 14, 2022.
Matthew Bowler
Tijuana's highway bridges crossing over the polluted Tijuana River, June 14, 2022.

Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday reiterated the need for Congress to approve $310 million that President Joe Biden included in his emergency supplemental appropriations bill to address contamination in the Tijuana River Valley.

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Newsom said the funds are desperately needed to repair infrastructure at the South Bay International Wastewater Plant — a federal facility on federal land.

"It is the federal government's responsibility to complete the capital improvements to the facility that are required to stop the ongoing harmful discharges into the marine environment that are impacting public health, the local economy, and ecosystems and species in coastal communities," he wrote. "Southern California communities have suffered from this crisis for far too long, impacting the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and U.S. Navy Seal special operation forces who train in those waters.


"Congress must act quickly to approve the president's proposal and provide this much needed, urgent funding," Newsom wrote.

In October 2023, the funding was requested by Biden, but it has been held up in bureaucratic channels.

Last week's storm was a stark reminder of the failure of some of the region's infrastructure, with state agencies estimating more than 14.5 billion gallons of raw sewage flowed from Mexico into California as a result of heavy rains.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, offered a statement on the initial funding request last year.

"For far too long, toxic waste and raw sewage have flowed across the border, and Tropical Storm Hilary overwhelmed the system even further, pushing hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and wastewater into Southern California," he said. "Contaminated water has impaired our military readiness and threatened the health of Navy SEALs, Customs and Border Protection agents, U.S. Coast Guardsmen, and millions of Southern Californians."


More than 300,000 Californians live in proximity to the polluted river. Studies by local researchers have found negative health impacts from not only the water itself but the aerosolized spray from the ocean.

Newsom's administration has invested $32.2 million in state funding to help clean up the area, a statement from the governor's office read.