San Diego Agency Sues Over Tijuana Sewage, Citing Clean Water Act

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

A lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday by the San Diego Regional Water Board alleges that the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has repeatedly violated provisions of the Clean Water Act and its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit by discharging millions of gallons of waste — including untreated sewage, trash, pesticides and heavy metals — from its water treatment facilities into the Tijuana River, the Tijuana River Estuary and the Pacific Ocean.

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The plaintiff is asking the court to declare that the USIBWC has violated the Clean Water Act on numerous occasions, has failed to prevent and recover waste from its many illicit discharge events, and must take all actions necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act and the NPDES permit.

Lori Kuczmanski of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission said the USIBWC cannot comment on pending litigation.

According to the San Diego Water Board, from 2015 to the present, more than 11 million gallons of waste have gone untreated, raising concerns about long-term damage to the environment, aquatic species and threats to human health. Beaches along the city of Imperial Beach were closed more than 200 days in 2015 and about 150 days in 2016 and 2017 to protect the public.

In the last decade, coastal cities in California have imposed 1,000 beach closures in response to contaminated wastewater, the Water Board said.

The lawsuit maintains that USIBWC is responsible for addressing cross- border flows of waste from Mexico into California as required by its NPDES permit and that chronic mismanagement of its water treatment facilities through the years has led to the legal action.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller ruled that a lawsuit brought by the Port of San Diego and the cities of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach, alleging that the federal government is not doing enough to prevent the flow of Tijuana sewage into the U.S., can move forward.

— City News Service

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