Surfrider Foundation to File Lawsuit Against IBWC Over Tijuana Sewage Spills

The Surfrider Foundation filed a 60-day intent to sue notice on May 15 over what they claim is violations of the Clean Water Act by the IBWC

A local environmental organization announced Tuesday a lawsuit would move forward against the United States International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) over sewage flowing into the U.S. from Tijuana.

The Surfrider Foundation said they would formally file a lawsuit over what they claim are violations to the Clean Water Act by the IBWC on Tuesday.

A 60-day intent to sue notice was issued on May 15.

The environmental group claims the IBWC has failed to address wastewater discharges from the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, just two miles north of the U.S.-Mexico Border, which was established to treat flows coming into the U.S. from the Tijuana River.  

The Surfrider Foundation's notice followed an intent to sue filing by the county's San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board in conjunction with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in May.

The notices said the IBWC violated the Clean Water Act by allowing more than 12 million gallons of wastewater that flowed from the Tijuana River Watershed into California to go untreated since 2015. 

A federal lawsuit had been filed in March by the cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista and by the Port of San Diego. 

In January, Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the Trump administration for a $20 million budget for the Environmental Protection Agency’s U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure program, to help reduce the polluted runoff to the U.S.

While the battle over pollution near the Tijuana River Valley has been going on for years, the issue was thrust into the forefront in February 2017 when a spill slowly allowed 143 million gallons of sewage to seep into U.S. waters from Tijuana.

The spill, caused after a sewage pipe collapsed in Tijuana, resulted in the closure of beaches from Imperial Beach to Coronado. It was later estimated that 

Nearly a year later, a 600,000-gallon spill closed Imperial Beach for nearly two weeks. 

The Department of Environmental Health conducts weekly water quality tests to ensure water at South Bay beaches is safe for visitors. Beaches are closed more frequently during periods of heavy rain, when runoff causes more debris to flow into the United States. 

When asked for comment on the potential lawsuit, the IBWC said it does not comment on pending litigation.

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