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Officials, stakeholders meet virtually to address recent wastewater coming from Mexico

IBWC asking Mexican counter parters shut down pump station during peak hours.
Posted at 7:04 AM, Jan 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-15 10:04:51-05

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) - Overflowing wastewater is making its way back into the Imperial Beach and Tijuana River Valley areas.

“Over the last week, there’s been over 40 million gallons of treated and untreated sewage that’s been basically spilled into America,” Eric Syverson, who’s been involved in the wastewater issue for four years, said.

The International Boundary and Water Commission met virtually with local stakeholders on Friday afternoon to tell them the steps being done to fix what’s called an unprecedented leak recently at Stewart’s Drain.

One solution is to have their Mexican counterpart shut down their pump station during peak hours.

“On top of that, we’re adding some pumps. We’re going to be adding at least one more pump at Stewart’s Drain collector which is where these transboundary flows are coming through. And we’ll have a chance to capture more of that flow,” Morgan Rogers, Area Operations Manager at San Diego Field Office of the IBWC, said.

In a slide during this virtual meeting, Commissioner Giner of the IBWC stated these are the steps being taken to reduce the current wastewater issue:

  1. Mitigating efforts are being coordinated between both Sections of the IBWC, USIBWC Operator (Veolia), city of Tijuana (CESPT) to resolve the current issue
  2. Temporarily shut down Pump Station CILA (PBCILA) during peak flow periods to reduce or stop transboundary flows while assessing conditions at the International Collector
  3. Run additional pumps at Stewart’s Drain on the U.S. side to enhance capacity to capture transboundary flows and re-route them into the SBIWTP
  4. In addition, IBWC staff will inspect JB1 to ensure it is not contributing to the backflow
  5. Adjust and operate PBCILA during peak flow periods in complement with additional Stewart’s Drain pumps to optimize flows to the SBIWTP while minimizing transboundary flows down the Tijuana River and Stewart’s Drain
  6. The International Collector rehabilitation and associated infrastructure is targeted for certification and implementation through NADB later this year
  7. Binational Working Group meeting on Tijuana Sanitation and USMCA projects on January 20

There are also plans of adding an additional berm to prevent more of these transboundary flows. JB1 is a junction box on the U.S. side.

Rogers stated that the additional pump and berm would be installed next week.

For Syverson, him hearing these solutions from the agency and the IBWC commissioner herself is a welcomed thing.

“And to finally have somebody come and say, ‘Okay we have a plan. We’re actually going to stop the sewage or the transboundary flow, and see if we can’t mitigate it ourselves until Mexico can fix it,’” Syverson said. “And that’s never really been said before.”

This stinky situation is stemming from the aging infrastructure in Mexico which is leading to a large amount of overflow amid an ongoing issue.

Until that’s fixed, the short-term solutions are what can be done in the meantime.

“The long-term solution and I think everyone is in agreement is the replacement of the international interceptor pipeline in Mexico. And they do have a project. It’s awaiting funding,” Rogers said.

“It’s a funding issue to do the replacement and there are discussions higher up so hopefully that will be funded very soon.”

The solutions, for now, are identified and the end game is known.

But, some are glad there’s more eyes on what’s happening here.

“I’m deeply grateful that Commissioner Giner took the time going into a long holiday weekend for the federal government at 5 o’clock on Friday to actually say she’s personally watching this issue,” Syverson said.