Re: “Get Ready for Ocean Water Quality to Take a Dive”
By Carrie Jiampa
The South Bay has dealt with poor water quality for long enough. The Surfrider Foundation (Surfrider) agrees with pretty much everyone that a contaminated coast is unacceptable. Water that fails to meet federal water quality standards threatens public health, destroys our invaluable estuary, and robs South Bay residents and our families of the chance to enjoy the coast.
Finding a realistic solution to this problem has unfortunately taken decades, which Surfrider attributes to a lack of U.S. federal leadership. For over a decade, the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (owned by a U.S. federal agency) has been unable to manage sewage near the border. The only realistic response in the short term is to upgrade the plant’s ability to receive and treat waste. This is not something San Diego County stakeholders can address on our own.
Ultimately, the federal government has the jurisdiction, the funding, and the legal responsibility to move us forward. That’s why Surfrider is pulling on every lever possible — from litigation, to advocacy for legislative solutions, to local stakeholder meetings and collaboration — to force our national leaders to act on border sewage.
This positive momentum towards real change is the reason we are compelled to dispel misinformation about our efforts as described in a recent opinion piece in the Coronado Times, penned by an Imperial Beach resident.
A main implication of the article is that Surfrider is supporting a wastewater plan to “quadruple the amount of sewage being dumped off the coast.” Surfrider is working on a plan, but it would allow the plant to treat sewage that currently pollutes the Tijuana River Valley or flows directly to our beaches. This engineering and infrastructure concept, called the “Stakeholder Solution,” is supported by state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and South Bay residents. Surfrider is working hard to ensure that it receives the necessary federal support going forward.
Equally misleading is a statement in the article which implies that Surfrider is somehow profiting off our work at the border due to coastal property ownership in Baja. Surfrider owns no property in Baja or anywhere else. Period.
Lastly, the piece suggests that Surfrider is suing the federal government specifically for financial gain. Litigation has nothing to do with our bottom line. The purpose of this lawsuit is to require the federal government to formally — and finally — acknowledge what we all know: the South Bay is suffering from a toxic border sewage crisis that is in stark violation of Clean Water Act standards. If we win this case, our national leaders will be compelled to act.
Our focus has always been, and always will be, to safeguard our ocean, waves and beaches. In the case of the South Bay, that means doing everything within our power to fix the sewage crisis. It also means continuing to clean up trash from our beaches, monitor ocean water quality, and serve as a vehicle for concerned locals who want to protect our coast.
We encourage all interested community members to attend our monthly Clean Border Water Now meetings, which occur every second Thursday of the month at the Imperial Beach Public Library. Make no mistake, the Surfrider Foundation will continue this fight until South Bay families can feel safe taking their families to the beach.
Carrie Jiampa is a co-lead of Surfrider’s Clean Border Water Now committee.