SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The Environmental Protection Agency is pledging $630 million to help clean up and prevent raw sewage from flowing into the United States from Mexico between San Diego and Tijuana.
The issue has plagued the area, along the Tijuana River Valley, for decades.
Historically, raw sewage, especially during storms, pours into the valley and ultimately out to the ocean in Imperial Beach, California. Most of it is from Tijuana’s outdated sewage and stormwater infrastructure.
This leads to polluted water and beaches that have to be declared off-limits to the public.
“The southern part of our beach has been closed 200 days this year, 300 days last year, we still have a huge problem,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.
Dedina and others have been trying for many years to find a solution.
They are optimistic about the EPA’s so-called “holistic approach to address water pollution from the Tijuana River watershed.”
It calls for adding pump stations and increasing capacity to systems already in place along the Tijuana River Valley.
And trash booms are scheduled to be installed to collect tons of trash and old tires that also find their way north of the border along with the sewage.
“This is more than we ever imagined when we started talking to the EPA, it’s a much more comprehensive plan that really deals with all sources of pollution so I’m very happy about it,” said Dedina.
Dedina is also pleased that some of the money will be spent south of the border where large volumes of wastewater are also discharged directly into the Pacific Ocean in northern Baja California at a location known as Punta Bandera, about 10 miles south of the border.
Currents take the untreated material north along the coast impacting beaches in Tijuana and San Diego.
The facility has fallen into total disrepair and a new plant will have to be built.
“Some of the funding will go to that which we support because they can start using that funding immediately … What’s most important is a lot of upgrades they can start doing right now, they don’t have to wait for environmental review on a lot of components of the plan and they can start doing those things now,” Dedina said.
Two other treatment plants on the east side of Tijuana are expected to be upgraded as well using the EPA’s money, which will come from funds allocated for environmental mitigation by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA).
Capture basins are also part of the project to be built just north of the border.
“To capture flows that show up in the United States, but more importantly they’ll invest in pump stations and giving more capacity to existing plants,” stated Dedina. “It’s a good plan it addresses beach pollution, canyon pollution and Tijuana River pollution as well.”
The bigger projects are expected to break ground by 2023, but as Dedina stated, much of the work can begin in the near future.