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Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach

The research station that monitors water conditions in the Tijuana River Estuary every 15 minutes, sending information to a satellite on Sept. 5, 2017
Erik Anderson
The research station that monitors water conditions in the Tijuana River Estuary every 15 minutes, sending information to a satellite on Sept. 5, 2017
Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach
Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach GUEST: Erik Anderson, environment reporter, KPBS

Our top story on "Midday Edition", several South Bay residents including Imperial bait Mayor Serge Dedina said they were sickened by contaminated water from cross-border sewage bill that Mexican officials say didn't happen. Residency a foul smell and raw sewage were noticed along the Imperial Beach coastline last Friday and water quality test showed the water was contaminated. Joining me is Eric Anderson. Welcome.Thank you.It was confirmed the ocean was intimidated by Swedes last week.That is true. The interesting thing here is, federal officials on the side of the border had made a big exercise of saying they had improved communications with Mexico over the past couple of months. They improved lines of communication so we would be more aware if there was a cross-border spell. This coming against the backdrop of all of that sewage that moved through the river valley this year because of heavy rains. Hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage. We would get better communication and this last spell that happened last week, is an indication that maybe is not happening the way it should or it was promised it would.What are Mexican officials thing about the spell?There was no confirmation from Mexican officials this happened. Not only did the mayor of Imperial Beach make calls to Mexico, the mayor's office who then called the sewage officials. Who said there was no spill occurring. The U.S. agency in charge, the international wastewater and boundary commission made calls to Mexico to find out whether or not there had been a release of sewage. They say the Mexican officials said there had been no release. And then you compare that with what people saw in the water. What was tested in the water and there was a release. It calls into question I think whether or not, those protocols are effective.You talk to search did enough. Did he have a sense of when the spill happened quiteThe feeling was it happen sometime overnight possibly on Thursday of last week. They noticed there was an odor and they begin to notice discolored surf as well. Then the mayor reached out to folks south of the border, the county didn't test. San Diego County wasn't notified of a spill so they didn't test. The county said when they did send people to that area to see it, they didn't notice any discoloration or smell so they didn't do testing of the water. That the testing that did occur happened south of the border for the sewage spill also affected the coast. In Tijuana. The clean water organization there do testing and they came back with test results that show there was contamination in the water.There is a system in place for Mexican authorities to inform U.S. authorities a spell has taken place. And hasn't that been used in the past?I think there was some issues with how that communication happened this past winter. When the sewage bills were so severe and there was such a lag in communication. So I think that was what officials on both sides of the border say they were going to try to correct. Improve the communication. If there's a spell on the Mexican side, notify the American side. There is an issue with the water. Health officials on the side can test the water and see if it safe for swimmers. I think that is the contention that surge pointed to. Last week as the spill was happening was a great time to be surfing. The conditions were perfect in terms of quality of the waves that were happening at Imperial Beach. That's why he was out in the surf last week. About there was no pollution warning sign saying it's not the best time to be on the beach. Stay out of the water. If they had got notification from Mexico a spill occurred on their side of the border and there was a chance of contamination, testing could have been done and warning signs could've gone up. People wouldn't have gotten sick.The frequent sewage spills have led to legal action by number of San Diego city?Not only Imperial Beach, they filed an intent to sue which starts the clock. I'll explain a second. The city of Imperial Beach, the city of Chula Vista, the Port of San Diego, the city of San Diego in the County of San Diego. We're expecting there may be some involvement from National City at some point down the road. And a statement of support from Coronado. Those communities have all indicated they are upset with the situation. They are intending to sue the federal agencies that are responsible for cross-border pollution issues which is the international boundary and wastewater commission and they private company hired to run the South Bay -- the international wastewater treatment plant. What they are saying, we need you to do whatever it is you are responsible to do to make sure this doesn't happen. The intent to sue started the clock and gave them 60 days to actually file a lawsuit. In that 60 days, the International Boundary and Water Commission has to demonstrate we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. They had a release today where they said, you know, they want to have a workshop with the interested groups here in San Diego to talk about potential solutions. And they want to get together. They went to the Justice Department when they got the intent to sue, the Justice Department said, you need to try and work to sing up. They won't take a position on it now. They are asking for a workshop to come up with possible solutions. When I talk to the mayor on Monday, he said the time for workshops has passed. We have had workshops. We know what the problem is, there's region the water and we wanted out. We want the people responsible for doing that, the IBWC to do that. I'm not sure the workshops will be a fruitful into the dispute.I have been working with the environment reporter Eric Anderson. Thank you.My pleasure.

Another Unreported Cross-Border Sewage Spill Fouls Imperial Beach
A cross-border sewage spill fouled ocean waters off the southern San Diego County coast last week and local officials say there was no word of warning from Mexican officials.

A cross-border sewage spill fouled ocean waters off the southern San Diego County coast last week and local officials say there was no word of warning from Mexican officials.

Imperial Beach officials said the stench from the spill permeated the beach area last Friday. Officials saw human waste in the surf line. Water quality tests just south of the U.S.-Mexico border showed high levels of contamination.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said he got physically sick from surfing in the ocean, as did at least three other surfers.

That happened because there was no warning of a spill on the Mexican side of the border and health officials on the U.S. side had no reason to test the water.

RELATED: South Bay Cities, Port Sue Feds Over Cross-Border Sewage Spills

"There's a reason why the city of Imperial Beach, the city of Chula Vista, the city of San Diego, the county of San Diego and the Port of San Diego have filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government because this what we're seeing on, literally, almost a daily basis in the Tijuana River Valley," Dedina said.

Federal officials on the U.S. side of the border promised better cross-border communication after more than 200 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed through the Tijuana River Valley this past winter. Since that is not happening, local officials remain on course to sue the federal agency in charge of the issues, the International Boundary and Water Commission, or IBWC.

"We asked the County Department of Environmental Health to investigate. They asked the IBWC if there had been any spills and the report from Mexico was that there hadn't been," Dedina said

"I also talked to the international coordinator for the city of Tijuana, who talked to the mayor of Tijuana. The mayor of Tijuana asked the sewer agency of Baja California if there had been a spill. They categorically denied it," Dedina said.

Test results of samples gathered by clean water advocates south of the border later confirmed the ocean was contaminated by sewage.