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Thousands of gallons of sewage spills after South Bay plant pumps fail

Posted at 6:32 AM, Aug 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-30 10:32:43-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Residents in San Diego’s South Bay were left to deal with a strong odor after thousands of gallons of sewage spilled onto a roadway.

The International Boundary and Water Commission confirmed that about 20,000 gallons spilled onto Hollister Street on Monday afternoon.

Pictures taken of the spill showed the sewage covering the road outside the pumping station at the wastewater treatment plant.

On Tuesday, most of the sewage was gone, but the odor sat heavily in the air.

The IBWC said for about 25 minutes Monday, the spill gushed out about 20,000 gallons after the pumps failed, leaking flows from Goats Canyon and Smugglers Gulch in the Tijuana River Valley. The sewage that wasn't absorbed into the ground after the spill was recovered and discharged at the station.

Just about a block away, there were hundreds of homeowners who said they have no choice but to put up with this years-long issue. They told ABC 10News the smell gets worse at night and during warmer temperatures.

"Family members come over for parties and stuff, and sometimes in the evenings, we notice the smell; it's embarrassing," said Ernesto Ruiz, who's lived in the area for 21 years with his family.

Another homeowner, Marty Valdez, said he's lived in the area for only five years and has thought about selling his home to get away from the problem. But he worries about not finding a buyer willing to buy and deal with the constant smell.

"I got a granddaughter and you don't even want to invite them over. They're from the LA area and you don't even want them to come breathe this," says Valdez.

The IBWC said replacement pumps are being ordered to restore the pump station as soon as possible, but there is no timetable for that repair.

On Wednesday morning, Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre called on the state to get involved in the ongoing situation.

If a State of Emergency is declared for Imperial Beach, the city can receive additional state and federal funds to address the decades-long negative impacts of water pollution in the area.