Government Consortium to Study Tijuana River Sewage Spills

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Discarded tires line the Tijuana River bed. Photo by Chris Stone

A study is being launched to figure out ways to reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing from the Tijuana River into U.S. waterways, the North American Development Bank announced Friday.

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Researchers will evaluate ways to improve and expand sewage diversion infrastructure, as well as methods to optimize existing facilities during rain, storms and other weather events that typically increase sewage flows.

“We believe that this study will provide the best alternatives to increase capacity while diverting flows and ultimately address this significant transboundary issue in benefit of residents on both sides of the border in this region,” bank Managing Director Alex Hinojosa said.

The binational bank finances environmental projects certified by the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, an institution created as part of 1993’s North American Free Trade Agreement.

The study was discussed Friday during a joint stakeholder meeting between representatives from the bank, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International Boundary Water Commission, Mexican National Water Commission and a Mexican water utility.

The bank will finance the study with a $240,000 grant administered by an EPA-funded program.

Sewage flow from Mexico has for decades sickened people and led to beach closures as far north as Coronado, in the process irritating a wide variety of government, environmental and recreational stakeholders.

Citing inaction on the sewage issue, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Surfrider Foundation all filed 60-day notices of intent to sue the International Boundary Water Commission this week.

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If the organizations follow through, they’ll join the Port of San Diego and cities of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach, all of which filled lawsuits against the water commission in March.

–City News Service

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