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Federal funding secured to address sewage issues at US-Mexico border

Posted at 5:07 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 20:07:14-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — A group of federal legislators from San Diego announced the allocation of $15 million Friday for water infrastructure improvements along the U.S-Mexico border.

Legislators included the funding in a spending bill approved earlier this week and signed Friday by President Donald Trump. The $15 million will go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure program.

Reps. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, Scott Peters, D-San Diego, and Susan Davis, D-San Diego, as well as congressional representatives from border regions of New Mexico and Texas have sought funding for the program since last March.

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"The $15 million in funding signed into law today will go to priority projects identified by the EPA to rein in the sewage crisis," said Vargas, Peters and Davis in a joint statement. "As the EPA and the North American Development Bank determine how best to use the funding, we will provide input and communicate with San Diegans and other stakeholders to determine what the most pressing needs are."

The legislators did not specify which infrastructure projects would be tackled with the funding, but addressing polluted water flows from the Tijuana River is ostensibly one that would qualify. Eligible projects must sit within 100 kilometers of the border on either side, according to the EPA.

Polluted water from the Tijuana River often affects U.S. shorelines as far north as Coronado, especially after rainstorms.

RELATED: Tijuana pipe break leaking millions of gallons of sewage into coastal waters, IB officials say

In a January 2018 letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, used the polluted flows as a reason to fund the program.

"According to the Border Patrol Union, 80 agents at the Imperial Beach Patrol Station were sickened in just the last year from toxic transboundary runoff that could be addressed through increased resources for the EPA's U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program," Feinstein wrote.

Feinstein helped garner support the program's funding in the Senate.

"We are grateful for Sen. Dianne Feinstein for leading this effort in the Senate, the appropriators who helped secure the funding, and our local partners who provided valuable input to this conversation," Vargas, Peters and Davis said. "Our partnership is essential to fully addressing the sewage crisis."