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

A group of Democratic senators and San Diego County-based congressional representatives sent a letter to multiple federal agencies Tuesday urging them to address sewage runoff in the Tijuana River, which then flows into the Pacific Ocean.

California Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Susan Davis, D-San Diego, and Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, co-signed the letter addressed to the directors of the U.S. Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees bodies of water that traverse the U.S.-Mexico border.

Letter to federal agencies on Tijuana River sewage issues. (PDF)

“It is critical that your agencies work together to develop a comprehensive plan to address the ongoing pollution issues along the border in Southern California,” the letter says. “We urge you to improve monitoring of air and water quality in southern San Diego and Imperial counties, aggressively mitigate impacts of air and water pollution, and encourage activities that cut down on sources of pollution.”

Local and state officials as well as environmental activists have decried the condition of the Tijuana River for years, which regularly causes beach closures along the county’s coastline, particularly after heavy rain.

In addition to consistent pollution of the river, a sewage collector in Tijuana ruptured last December, spilling six to seven million gallons of raw sewage into the river each day for roughly a week. The legislators noted in the letter that CBP agents have reported consistently strong presences of harmful bacteria like E. coli near the border that are often found in raw sewage.

Last year, the San Diego Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit against the IBWC, alleging repeated violations of the Clean Water Act and negligence of the health and safety of residents who live along the San Diego County coastline.

The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego have since joined the organization’s lawsuit. The city of San Diego and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a similar suit against the IBWC last year, as well, which is scheduled to go to trial in April 2020.

— City News Service

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