California Senators Feinstein and Padilla request $310M for border-sewage fix

More than 100 billion gallons of toxic effluent have entered the United States through the Tijuana River since 2018

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla Tuesday called on U.S. Senate leadership to include $310 million in an upcoming emergency supplemental bill -- money that would be used to repair infrastructure to treat raw sewage spilling across the border from Mexico.

"While normal conditions overwhelm the system, Tropical Storm Hilary pushed hundreds-of-millions of gallons more of untreated stormwater and wastewater across the border, polluting nearby waterways and the ocean," the senators, both Democrats, wrote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The mayor of Imperial Beach is calling on the White House to declare a state of emergency due to the Tijuana sewage spills that continue to shut down local beaches.

More than 100 billion gallons of toxic effluent have entered the United States through the Tijuana River since 2018, routinely depositing dangerous bacteria into regional waterways and closing beaches up and down the coast, according to Feinstein and Padilla.

"In 2019, the California delegation secured $300 million in the U.S.- Mexico-Canada Agreement to expand the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant from 25 million gallons per day to 50 million gallons per day, which will alleviate the pollution burden," the letter reads.

Some beaches have been closed for more than 100 days already this year.

"However, the International Boundary and Water Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have identified urgent repairs to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant that must be undertaken before expanding capacity."

The senators attached letters from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Natural Resources Agency in requesting the funding.

A new study shows the contaminated water from Imperial Beach not only impacts the water, but our air, too. NBC 7’s Audra Stafford shares more information.

County Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas and Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer in July continued their push to have the U.S.-Mexico transboundary sewage pollution from the Tijuana River declared a federal emergency, following the closure of several county beaches on the Fourth of July.

The south side of Imperial Beach has been closed for more than 600 consecutive days due to sewage runoff flowing into the ocean from Tijuana.

NBC 7's Kelvin Henry spoke to a professor who explains how sewage leaks contaminating water in southern San Diego County can impact the region in the long term.
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