San Diego

Bill Confronts Sewage Spills Still Wreaking Havoc on U.S. Border Patrol

More than 83 agents for U.S. Border Patrol have suffered chemical burns and illnesses from exposure to the spills

After lingering sewage spills from Tijuana left U.S. Border Patrol agents with chemical burns and illnesses, a couple congressmen put their political differences aside in San Diego to address the issue.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa (R-49th District) and Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas (R-51st District) united to present legislation addressing the issues at the Tijuana River Monday.

In the last several months, more than 83 agents for U.S. Border Patrol have been sickened or injured, said Christopher Harris, from the National Border Patrol Council. The burns were caused by contaminants in the river, spreading from the sewage spills.

“I have pictures of guys with chemical burns on their feet,” said Harris. “Laces have dissolved. We’ve had guys go to the hospital for when they breathe in, they burn their lungs. We’ve documented that.”

In order to prevent this from happening again, the congressmen crafted a bill that would install better alerting systems to improve the emergency response. The Mexican government also enacted an emergency measure worth $8 million to upgrade their sewage pipe system.

“We could’ve treated all that sewage but we didn’t know. We didn’t know. We didn’t find out until much later," said Vargas. "This bill increases the monitoring, notifications, the alerts."

Vargas said the Mexican government is willing to work with the U.S. to strengthen their own infrastructure.

By the end of the year, the bill seeks to add three or four monitoring facilities to oversee the issue. The legislation demands immediate notification as soon as a sewage spill is apparent.

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