San Diego

IBWC: Spill in Tijuana Releases Millions of Gallons of Sewage Into US Per Day

"We’re not asking to go to Mars... all we’re asking is to make sure that our kids can go to the beach 365 days a year," Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said.

The International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC) announced Tuesday that there has been another failure in a sewage collection main in the city of Tijuana resulting in a spill that the commission has so far been unable to capture.

The Mexican section of the IBWC told the U.S. section Tuesday that a massive amount of sewage - an estimated 6 to 7 million gallons per day - is flowing into the Tijuana River Valley and into the Pacific Ocean as a result of the break, the U.S. section said.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said Tuesday that he doesn't think officials in Mexico are being transparent about when the break actually occurred.

“We don’t believe that this spill happened yesterday as the Mexican government is claiming. We think it happened right after the rain, so whether or not there’s a cover-up of the spill and whether or not we’ve had up to 30 million gallons spilled since the rain is something we’re concerned about," Mayor Dedina said.

A two-day storm last Wednesday and Thursday pummeled San Diego County and Tijuana with rain, wind and lightning.

A water contact closure was issued for Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge following a storm the week prior was extended Friday to include Imperial Beach, Silver Strand State Beach and Coronado.

The County Department of Environmental Health lifted the closure at Silver Strand and Coronado, saying that the shorelines were not impacted by the sewage line break because currents were moving south.

The DEH said it will continue to monitor water quality and will alert the public if anything changes.

Closures typically last 72 hours after a storm, but there is no telling how long the current shoreline closures will remain in place following the sewage system failure.

The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, as well as the Port of San Diego, the state of California and the Surfrider Foundation, are currently teamed in a lawsuit against the IBWC for alleged violations of both the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The lawsuit calls for the installation of sewage capturing infrastructure near the border that would keep sewage and contaminated runoff from spreading into San Diego waterways and reaching the ocean.

“This is a totally fixable problem," Dedina said. "We’ve been asking for this for years. This is why we’re in court... We’re not asking to go to Mars, we’re not asking to go to the Moon, we’re not asking for mansions all over the beach, all we’re asking is to make sure that our kids can go to the beach 365 days a year.”

Dedina said the city of IB has requested a federal investigation into the system break in Tijuana and has asked the Mexican government to fix the problem as soon as possible.

Dedina said spills like this one are bad for business all over the South Bay.

"Yesterday the Las Americas mall smelled like raw sewage, it smelled like a toilet. The whole stench of sewage permeated San Ysidro and the San Ysidro border crossing area and the Las Americas mall, so it’s not good for business and it’s not good for public health," he said.

The mayor also cited concern for Border Patrol agents and Navy SEALS who are forced to work and train in contaminated environments.

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An image shared by the International Boundary and Water Commission shows a sinkhole in an auto repair business in Tijuana. The IBWC said the reports of sinkholes prompted the Tijuana water utility to reroute water into the Tijuana River flow.

On Wednesday, the IBWC released images of what appear to be sinkholes on the property of an auto repair business in Tijuana. The agency claimed after the Tijuana water utility (CESPT) was notified of the sinkholes, workers diverted water flow from the business in the Colector Poniente in southeast Tijuana to a stormwater collector which drains into the Tijuana River.

As of Wednesday, Mexico would change the flow to direct the wastewater into its treatment system and determine if they need to replace or relocate a damaged collector line, according to Lori Kuczmanski, Public Affairs Officer for the IBWC. 

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This image was released by the International Boundary and Water Commission on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The IBWC is also being targeted in a lawsuit brought on by the San Diego Water Board.

No other information was available.

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