The exact amount of raw sewage that spilled into the Tijuana River earlier this year could range from 28 million gallons to 256 million gallons, and it may be hard to tell exactly how much spilled, a newly released report by the investigating agency found.
The February sewage spill is considered one of the worst raw sewage spills in the South Bay area in more than a decade. Initially, authorities reported 143 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the river.
However, the report, by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), indicates that it is difficult to determine the exact number of gallons released into the Tijuana River. The report comes after an investigation launched after the spill.
At least 28 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the river the first week of February, the report found.
However, the report also found that 256 million gallons of sewage are unaccounted for from January and February of this year. The sewage was not pumped through the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant during those months.
"It is difficult to determine the exact flow since it was not directly measured," the report reads.
The IBCW report found that a sewer line break in Tijuana caused the spill, along with blocked or collapsed pipes and an overflow of sanitary sewers after heavy rainfall in the Greater San Diego area.
In their report, authorities also said there could be dozens of sewage lines along the U.S.-Mexico border in the San Diego region at risk for failing in the future.
Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina told NBC 7 that he is tired of finger pointing from agencies like the City of San Diego, The County, the EPA, the IBWC, and the State Water Board. Dedina said he wants them to take more responsibility and figure out ways to prevent the sewage from spilling over the border.
“The problem is the agencies on this side of the border have had a hands-off policy," Dedina said. "They have done very little to help us out. The reality is the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego. That sewage flows through their jurisdiction. They’re legally responsible for that and they have not done anything to prevent those sewage flows or report them.”
Mayor Dedina suggested ideas like retention ponds, or putting a pump station on our side of the border to suck the sewage out of the river.
“We’re going to be pressuring a lot more on agencies on this side of the border," Dedina said. "There are some things we can do like retention ponds, and putting a pump station on our side of the border to suck the sewage out of the river."
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D - 52nd District) said he saw the potential to use existing agreements to prevent something like this from happening again, though more needed to be done.
Read his statement in full:
“I appreciate the thorough work by Commissioner Drusina and his staff at the International Boundary and Water Commission to get answers and suggest changes to help prevent this type of massive spill from happening again.
“Local and state Mexican authorities acknowledged that by keeping their American colleagues in the dark for too long they prevented assistance that could have accelerated repairs, and have committed to make changes so they don’t repeat the error. They’ve also identified concrete steps to improve their reporting and communication. For my part, I intend to see how we might use existing agreements and trade negotiations to enforce those changes.
“According to this report, there are dozens of sewage lines along the border at serious risk of failing and causing more spills. President Trump’s budget blueprint guts one of the existing programs designed to help repair these pipes – a program designed to keep sewage out of U.S. waterways. Rep. Vargas and I are urging Congress to reject these cuts so that we can continue to improve sewage infrastructure along the border, protect public health, and help prevent future sewage spills.”