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Navy urged to address SEALs' training challenges in sewage-contaminated waters

Polluted ocean water in Imperial Beach
Posted at 5:01 PM, Feb 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-06 21:23:20-05

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters and four members of San Diego County’s congressional delegation are urging the Navy to address concerns regarding SEALs training in sewage-contaminated waters from Mexico.

"We have a real crisis on our hands," Peters told Team 10. "We send them out to water that is contaminated... The leadership has been shy to say anything about the water but every SEAL you talk to who has actually trained there will tell you stories about swimming up on human feces."

In a recent letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Peters highlighted Naval records showing over 20 in-water training sessions were canceled in fiscal 2022 at the Silver Strand Training Complex on the Coronado-Imperial Beach border. He noted no cancellations occurred the prior year due to sewage flowing from Mexico.

Failed promises from U.S. and Mexican political leaders have resulted in millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing daily from Tijuana into the Pacific Ocean, affecting shores in southern San Diego.

"If the pollution in the TRV (Tijuana River Valley) is not addressed, we are concerned that further training cancellations due to water quality concerns could harm the Navy and our military readiness," Peters wrote.

A call to the Naval Special Warfare Command was unanswered.

Peters emphasized that the lack of training adversely affects national security, especially given the substantial cost of preparing SEALs.

"If we can't train in the ocean," Peters said, "You're wasting a lot of money."

Recent storms have exacerbated sewage flow into the U.S. Peters stated that Tijuana is directly pumping sewage into the ocean, and the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Ysidro isn’t functioning properly.

"We have a lot of issues to address," Peters said.

In his Jan. 23 letter to the Navy secretary, Peters seeks information on instances of Navy training suspension, relocation, or cancellation due to beach closures and water contamination. He also wants details on Navy personnel raising concerns about sickness or injury after training in contaminated water or sand, along with information on data collection methods for assessing sewage effects on training sessions.

Other signatories to the letter include Democrats Juan Vargas, Mike Levin, and Sara Jacobs, and Republican Darrell Issa.

"We want details on the effects of training," Peters said.

Representing Coronado, Peters is also urging Congress to support President Joe Biden’s $310 million request for repairs at the dilapidated South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Ysidro. Recent storms and Tijuana runoff have overwhelmed the plant, resulting in millions of extra gallons of sewage flowing into the shores of southern San Diego County, where SEALs train.

Additionally, the county has placed warning signs along the shores in Coronado and Imperial Beach to caution about the health hazards of entering the ocean.