San Diego

Fight Over Tijuana Sewage Heads to Court

The fight to stop sewage spills in the South Bay headed to court

The fight to stop sewage spills in the South Bay headed to court Friday as the Port of San Diego along with the cities of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach filed a federal lawsuit against the agency responsible for preventing pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.

“Enough is enough, that the International Boundary and Water Commission, the United States government, must be held accountable," Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said Friday.

The Tijuana Estuary is just one of the many sensitive marine habitats that have been threatened by sewage spills along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

A February 2017 spill sent 28 million gallons of sewage into the Tijuana River and into U.S. waters. The spill, caused after a sewage pipe collapsed in Tijuana, resulted in the closure of beaches from Imperial Beach to Coronado.  

A 600,000-gallon spill that occurred last month closed the beach for nearly two weeks. 

Longtime Imperial Beach residents say the problem goes back as far as they can remember. They feel the lawsuit is the appropriate next step.

"I think it's one way of getting people's attention to get them to take it more seriously, than just people idly talking about it. So I'm all for it," said Ron Chapman.

"It's a good thing that they're trying, but every single mayor that IB has had has failed,” Rosa Rojas said. “ I don't see a quick solution. I really don't see a quick solution."

The problem has attracted the attention of congressional representatives and prompted meetings with representatives from both sides of the border.

Local leaders say the U.S. government’s oversight is also severely lacking.

On Friday, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas and Port Commissioner Dan Malcolm joined Dedina in announcing the lawsuit. 

The entities are suing the IBWC for violating both the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Dedina said the commission’s failure to act over the last three years led to nearly 400 spills of sewage and other toxic waste into the Tijuana River Valley.

Contact Us