San Diego

Former Imperial Beach Mayor Speaks Out on Recent Tijuana River Sewage Spill

In 1980, Imperial Beach native Brian Bilbray was the town’s mayor and was fighting a pollution battle of his own

For Imperial Beach native Brian Bilbray, last month’s more than 143 million gallon sewage spill is nothing new.

“My granddaughter is a third generation sewage kid,” Bilbray said.

In 1980, Bilbray was the town’s mayor and was fighting a pollution battle of his own in the same region as last month's massive spill: the Tijuana River.

“We went down with skiploaders and announced to them that we're going to dam up the Tijuana River and back the sewage up,” Bilbray said. “Create an incident by saying we're not going to allow the sewage on our beaches.”

He said the stunt got the attention of government agencies that initially said the problem was not theirs. He credits the awareness raised through the media for that.

Last month, millions of gallons of raw sewage spilled in Tijuana and leaked into the Imperial Beach region, making the river and parts of the coast unsafe.

He said those handling the sewage spill now can draw a lesson from the same spirit of yesteryear.

“None of these agencies want to address the issue because it's coming across the border and they don't want to look like a bad guy,” he said.

His proposal? Force another “incident.”

“I'd propose that for every day IB is closed with pollution signs, the port of entry should be closed. Let's see how quick people react to that," he said. 

Since the news of the recent spill, the International Boundaries Water Commission has agreed to carry out a bi-national investigation into the more than 143 million gallons of raw sewage spilled in Tijuana.

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