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Imperial Beach Poised To Sue Over Sewage Spills

A beach closure sign is posted at Imperial Beach due to water pollution, Feb. 13, 2017.
Katie Schoolov
A beach closure sign is posted at Imperial Beach due to water pollution, Feb. 13, 2017.
Imperial Beach Poised To Sue Over Sewage Spills
Imperial Beach Poised To Sue Over Sewage Spills GUEST:Erik Anderson, reporter, KPBS News

This is KPBS Midday Edition . I am Maureen Cavanaugh. The top story on midday addition, they are requiring a 60 day notice. They plan to sue over wastewater flows this city. Officials gathered to point the finger at the U.S. section of the water commission. They say the agency has failed to take Seri action to make sure waste water from Mexico is stopped and/or treated. Joining me is Eric and assert -- Anderson.Welcome.They talk about a continuous flow of wastewater. This problem seems to have reached a tipping point earlier this year with a massive sewage spill. Can you remind us about that ?It is along with the drought. Everyone was praying because we got so much rain. As a result of the rain, what happened south of the border in Tijuana is the fair sewage system and it was overwhelmed. We had nearly continuous flows of sewage from as early as mid-chair and wary January until March. That is raw sewage flowing through the Tijuana Valley and out to the ocean which led to beach closures. It created other problems. It created questions. It created outrage in the Imperial Beach area. That outrage has not been associated to the point where they feel like a solution is being walked towards. They ended up with this lawsuit against the international boundary commission.Since it is coming from Mexico, why not sue Mexico ?The water commission is the agency. It is a federal agency of the US government that negotiates for water treaty with Mexico. It is sort of there responsibility. What they agreed to address is that if there is a cross border problem, that has an impact on the USI, they will take steps to address that. That is one reason why there is a large international wastewater treatment plant on this side of the border. It treats some of the sewage that flows out of Mexico. The problem is, Mexico has grown in the last 10 years since the plant was built. When you get the wet weather flows like you did this winter, the Mexican system is overwhelmed. This plant is not built to handle the capacity that flows through the valley.What are some of the action that Imperial Beach is asking the federal government to take to solve the problem?What they did yesterday, they started the clock. They gave a 60 day notice with the intent to sue. What they are suggesting is they can do some things in that 60 day period to make sure we do not arrive at the lawsuit stage. They say increase the capacity of the diversion facilities that the ID -- I CWC runThey have collectors that could catch overflow. They want them to handle more capacity than they currently do. They talk about cleaning up the canyon collection facilities and reforming ongoing maintenance in the Tijuana Valley where there is not only sewage water but garbage that flows in there and gets collected. They want a better reaction so border patrol and other federal officials who are regularly in that area can get better protection. They want better cooperation with Mexican officials. If that is if there is a requirement to inform the public, they want that to happen more quickly. They want the construction of a catchment basin on this side of the border. A big retention pond is a way to describe that. When there are flows that overwhelm the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant that is there, they can diverted into this and hold it until the plant can catch up and treat the water. They want the North American development front, and agency that funds the border projects to help fund the project on both sides of the border that will lead to cleaner water.You say that announcement that they intend to file the suit, is starts the clock ?It is a 60 day process. You cannot just sue the federal government. You have to announce the intention to sue which is what Imperial Beach did yesterday. In 60 days, presumably if they are not satisfied with the reaction from the federal government, they can file the lawsuit and begin the process.This wastewater problem affects a wide area of the South Bay and the beaches. Is Imperial Beach a loan in the lawsuit? Are they hoping other cities join in ?They are alone now but of course, they would like some help from other communities that are directly affected. I spoke with David Alvarez. He has hinted at the possibility that San Diego might be interested in participating in legal actions. The mayor of Imperial Beach is mentioned and in Coronado, they are directly affected from the sewage flows. There certainly is the availability for other cities to join but we do not know if they will.I have been speaking with Eric Anderson. Thank you.My pleasure.

Imperial Beach Poised To Sue Over Sewage Spills
Imperial Beach officials are poised to sue the federal government unless the city sees progress in containing cross-border sewage spills.

Millions of gallons of untreated sewage washed across the San Diego-Tijuana border this past winter and the stench was so bad at times Imperial Beach residents couldn't leave their homes.

The city wants better sewage treatment facilities on both sides of the international border. Imperial Beach officials also want a clean-up of the Tijuana River Valley and better public notification when there is a spill.

RELATED: Cross-Border Sewage Spill Response Uncovers Ongoing Problems


The city is ready to sue if the federal government does not come through with solutions.

"We've had enough of the toxic waste and toxic sewage being dumped into the Tijuana River and along the border canyons. And we're finally saying enough is enough," said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

U.S. officials have not done anything to improve the situation in more than a decade, Dedina said.

"We think these are the most egregious clean water act violations in U.S. history," Dedina said. "The amount of toxic waste being discharged into the border and the canyons and into the Tijuana River are absolutely out of control."

RELATED: Federal US And Mexico Officials Agree To Investigate Massive Cross-Border Sewage Spill


Federal, state and local officials on the U.S. side of the border have all promised to help. The flow of sewage overwhelms Tijuana's sewage collection system and it would take hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade.

Imperial Beach officials are disappointed that Mexico is backing away from promises to invest money in Tijuana's infrastructure.