TIJUANA RIVER VALLEY, Calif. (KGTV) - The secretary of the local Border Patrol union called plans for a campground in the Tijuana River Valley in southern San Diego County “foolish.” The valley has been polluted by more than 162 million gallons of chemicals and raw sewage from Mexico in 2017 alone.
“This has been going on for 40 freakin’ years,” exclaimed Christopher Harris, who is also the Director of Legislative and Political Affairs for Local 1613.
Harris questioned a recent announcement to use $1.6 million to build a campground in the valley.
“You want people to come down and they’re going to be sleeping on the ground, walking through it, I mean as close contact as you can get with it,” he asked. “Look if they want to do that, the union’s not going to adamantly oppose them on that one but we still think it’s foolish.”
The campground is one of San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox’s projects to improve the Tijuana River Valley. A spokesman for his office told 10News plans for the campground are way off and the supervisor realizes an environmental study must be conducted first.
However, the statement from Cox’s office earlier this month said the $1.6 million should be earmarked for the campground as it was originally intended, stemming from a 1988 California state park bond. The statement said, “County taxpayer money designated by the voters for a County park is not the proper funding for an international water pollution prevention and treatment project costing hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“I don’t think that’s the best way to resolve this by saying, ‘That’s someone else’s job.’ This is in your county,” said Harris.
Harris also called on California Governor Jerry Brown to take action.
“You have an environmental disaster actually happening as we speak each and every day in your state and yet you’re strangely quiet or you’re apathetic about it,” he said.
10News relayed that statement to Governor Brown’s office. A spokesman from the California Environmental Protection Agency responded: “Given that cross-border waterways fall under international law, state and local entities have historically turned to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to address water quality issues at the border.”
The Cal EPA spokesman added, “Overall, progress is advancing on structural and non-structural recommendations to address the problem.”
In the meantime, Harris said he is increasingly worried about Border Patrol agents who routinely come in contact with the raw sewage.
“It’s getting worse so, am I frustrated? Yeah, my guys, my men and women are getting sick. They’re getting ill,” he said. “It scares me that I have to have my men and women working in a toxic chemical dump. That’s not what we signed on for.”
Harris said at least 83 agents have reported getting sick or getting skin rashes in the past few months after working in the Tijuana River Valley.
“I have no doubt that this is chemicals and sewage and just a toxic brew.”