San Diego State University

What's Actually In the Tijuana River? SDSU Grad Students Want to Know

SDSU Grad Students inspect and track the polluted waterway

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A decades-old problem is getting a youthful solution.

A crew of San Diego State University graduate students and their public health professor are conducting a monthly study of the water in the Tijuana River Estuary.

“We’re here to determine what’s in here because I think that’s the more concerning part: We just don’t know,” said SDSU Assistant Professor Kari Sant, Ph.D.

She was joined by three graduate students Friday as they took samples of the Tijuana River near Imperial Beach.

Definitely very eye-opening.

Kelsey Faust, SDSU Grad Student

“I think it’s definitely made me more aware of how a bigger crisis it can be,” said grad student Alexandra Fox.

Rainfall will flush the Tijuana River Valley out to the coast of San Diego County. The rainfall has also flushed hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage and toxic chemicals from Tijuana into California and out to the beach. Tijuana’s failing infrastructure has allowed much of that sewage to drain into the river.

“There’s so much trash coming across the border and that in itself can be a reservoir for other things like bacteria,” said Dr. Sant.

She decided to conduct the study with her graduate students after a field trip to the Tijuana River Valley last year.

“Honestly, we just asked how we could help,” she said. “We’re just kind of interested in how these contaminants are flowing through the river and how much is actually making it to the beach.”

They’ll share their findings with federal, state, and local health officials.

“Definitely very eye-opening,” said grad student Kelsey Faust.

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