Tijuana sewage sickens California mayor

Sewage flowing up the coast from Tijuana and across the United States-Mexico border has sickened surfers and the mayor of a Southern California city. The sewage flow has also prompted multiple cities, including San Diego, to mount a legal challenge against a United States federal agency in order to hold Mexico accountable. [Union Tribune]

Officials in Imperial Beach, the California Coast’s southernmost city, said sewage flowing from Tijuana fouled miles of shoreline over the last weekend, sickening surfers and beach goers. Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, who also fell ill, said at a news conference on Wednesday that he received no advanced notice from officials in Mexico about the pollution.

“We’re doing everything we can to build our relationship with Mexico, but if they’re going to be continually dumping sewage on us and making our council members and our community sick, it’s hard to continue that positive, proactive approach,” Dedina said.

Dedina is leading an effort to take the United States International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to force the agency to ramp up pressure on Mexico to stop the sewage spills. Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the city, county and port of San Diego have all filed an intent to sue the IBWC.

IBWC officials said they communicated with their Mexican counterpart and were informed that there was no report of a spill.

However, the Tijuana-based environmental group Proyecto Fronterizo de Educacion Ambiental did independent water testing on Friday, and the organization found extremely high levels of fecal indicator bacteria in Playas de Tijuana. The organization has pinpointed the deteriorating San Antonio de Los Buenos sewage treatment plant at Punta Bandera as the likely source of the sewage flow.

The Comision Estatal de Servicios de Tijuana (CESPT), a state agency that operates the city’s sewer and water delivery system, has not responded to requests for comment from media.

Paloma Aguirre, the coastal and marine director for the nonprofit environmental group Wildcoast, said she received reports from colleagues in Playas de Tijuana that “the stench of raw sewage permeated throughout the entire city.”

In February, a massive sewage spill in the Tijuana River fouled beaches as far north as Coronado. Federal records show that, since the February spill, polluted water has flowed continuously from Mexico across the border through the river and a series of canyons.