U.S. and Mexico Federal officials have agreed to further explore the circumstances that surround the massive dump of nearly 143 million gallons of raw sewage into the Pacific Ocean and that heavily polluted the Tijuana River Valley and beaches in southern California.
“It was the largest sewage spill in San Diego County,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. “We want the public to turn outrage into action, so that our federal elected officials take action to invest in our border infrastructure.”
Imperial and Coronado beaches are currently closed. Beachgoers are asked to refrain from swimming, walking, and playing in the ocean until further notice.
“When there are beach closure signs in Coronado, it’s a big deal,” he added. “The pollution levels at the Hotel Del Coronado were as high as they were this week at the Tijuana River Mouth.”
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
“NOW!” chanted a boisterous crowd of city officials, residents, environmentalists, and border patrolman at a ‘Take Action’ rally at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor’s Center in Imperial Beach on Thursday evening.
Hundreds of San Diego County residents attended the gathering to write letters to federal officials demanding that they make cleaning up our border beaches a priority, and immediately open an investigation into the recent spill.
Barron Partlow, a resident of the Tijuana River Valley, said he addressed his letter to Congressman Vargas. In his letter he wrote:
“Mr. Vargas, please be advised of my report to you of an act of biological and environmental terrorism of the government of Mexico on the citizenry of the United Sates of America. This was a deliberate act on behalf of Mexico and has robbed us of the serenity of a national treasure, the Tijuana Estuary Wildlife Reserve, as well as the cities of Imperial Beach, Coronado, and the city of San Diego. This is equivalent to dropping a dirty bomb on a city in the form of 143 million gallons of raw sewage.”
According to Wildcoast, on Thursday, March 2, 2017, just hours before the scheduled meeting and press conference, the International Boundary and Water Commission requested a bi-national investigation be performed to determine when the spill occurred, calculate the amount of spillage, identify the characteristics of the sewage, and lapses in communication and notification efforts to the community and its leaders.
Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey attended Thursday’s event to show his support and join forces with other officials so progress can be made. “It’s unfortunate that this appears to be a man caused disaster. We need an investigation to figure out why and what actually happened and we need to change the communication protocol to make sure we are properly notified in the future.”
“This specific spill isn’t happening today, but there are still spills happening,” announced San Diego Councilman David Alvarez, during the press conference.
“What we are really asking for is to fix this problem once and for all,” said Dedina. “To make fixing sewage infrastructure on the U.S. Mexico borders an urgent priority for every agency that works on the border.”
Following the news conference, the U.S. Citizens Advisory Committee of the International Water Commission held an open forum with the public. During the meeting, Steve Smullen, Area Operations Manager at International Boundary & Water Commission (U.S. Section) revealed that over a sixteen day period the U.S. Section made multiple inquiries to the Mexican Section and received a response on February 23, 2017.
The next day, IBWC filed a report that was based on verbal information that it received from the Mexican Section of the IBWC, regarding a spill of waste into the water of the Tijuana River. According to Smullen, “Mexico reported that a spill occurred from a collector that was undergoing rehabilitation. Mexico reported that the repair had been completed on February 23, but didn’t have any spill details on the date of occurrence, duration, or volume.”
“There are differing accounts regarding when the problem began, when repairs were completed, the amount of sewage that spilled, the period when sewage was flowing into the river, whether there was one event or multiple events that contributed,” he said. “Because of the differences in the accounts, it’s important to investigate to determine what actually happened,” he added.
Smullen’s revelation of details enraged several residents who were in attendance at the forum, as tempers ran hot and emotions overflowed. Several residents began speaking out of turn. One resident who didn’t shy away from voicing his concern was Imperial Beach resident Erik Mackenzie. “So we had a five year drought and they didn’t repair this stuff?” Mackenzie inquired. “The world’s largest producer of cement and they didn’t go fix the stuff when it was dry and they were able to access it?”
“They had to wait until the pineapple express is in full boar and then go try to repair something,” exclaimed Mackenzie. “That is the problem. The report cost the taxpayers how much money to tell us everything we already knew?”
“We can walk to the beach and see the pollution right there and smell the pollution,” said Mackenzie. “Nobody is being proactive. They are all being reactive. I want solutions, so our children and our environment is protected.”
In the coming weeks, Dedina plans to meet with officials to discuss a plan that’s being proposed in Mexico to upgrade the sewage infrastructure . “I’ll be meeting with the board of the Environmental Cooperation Commission to look at upgrading the sewage infrastructure and help do the construction on the border region.”
“We hope we can get some momentum forward, so we can finally fix this issue,” he added.
TAKEN FROM WILDCOAST WEBSITE:
Want to take action from your own home? Write a letter to your state representatives or call them:
Sen. Kamala Harris
600 B Street, Suite 2240
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone (619) 239 – 3884
Fax (202) 228 – 3863
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
880 Front Street, Suite 4236
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 231-9712
Fax: (619) 231-1108
Rep. Juan Vargas
333 F Street, Suite A
Chula Vista, CA 91910
Rep. Scott Peters
4350 Executive Drive, Suite 105
San Diego, CA 92121
Tell them that we demand:
- Federal investigation into recent spill.
- New NADB (North American Development Bank) plan for Tijuana upgrading sewage system a funding priority.
- Fixing water quality problems and not desal as a priority on the border.
It is critical that government agencies work with Mexico to reduce unnecessary sewage flows in the Tijuana River and improve management of infrastructure that helps prevent beach closures due to hazardous pollutants in South San Diego. This has been a recurring problem in the Tijuana River Valley and the most recent untreated sewage spill is not acceptable.
Remember, it’s important to include your name and address in your letter and tell them why having your beaches clean is important to you!