Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

An environmental disaster

Assemblymember Marie Waldron

75th District

As almost any resident of San Diego County knows, toxic wastes have been pouring into the ocean along the border south of San Diego for generations. Over the decades, there have been reports, studies and protests, but little action.

A recent study by the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission indicated that 100 billion gallons of toxic wastes entered the U.S. through the Tijuana River since 2018, with 35 billion gallons more since last December. Some beaches were closed for more than 635 consecutive days, with local businesses and tourism taking major hits.

National security is also impacted. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard train in that water and along those beaches, and the health of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents has been jeopardized. A 2018 study by the Border Patrol found that “transboundary flows” from Tijuana pose a “health and safety risk” to agents working along the border, as well as to those they apprehend.

Exposure to raw sewage can lead to diarrhea, fever, rashes, meningitis and numerous other infections and diseases, which can often result from a simple ‘fun’ day at the beach. One study indicated that in 2017, 34,000 people were sickened due to exposure to raw sewage at Imperial Beach alone.

So what can be done? I have joined San Diego County’s legislative delegation in letters to congressional leaders of both parties, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the President, calling for a $310 million appropriation in the emergency supplemental bill to modernize infrastructure necessary to treat raw sewage spilling across the border through the Tijuana River Valley.

Can we encourage Mexico to modernize the waste treatment facilities on its side of the border? Obviously, that needs to happen, but international diplomacy is a federal prerogative. By taking action now on our side of the border, this decades-long threat to public health may finally be headed toward a resolution.

 

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