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Port of San Diego commissioners declare Tijuana River Valley emergency

Sewage-contaminated runoff in Tijuana River prompts Imperial Beach water closure
Posted at 11:42 AM, Apr 04, 2024

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The Port of San Diego has joined San Diego County and the cities of San Diego and Imperial Beach in declaring a local emergency related to the ongoing Tijuana River Valley pollution crisis, officials said Wednesday.

"Clean water and clean air are basic quality of life expectations and are needed now in our South Bay," Frank Urtasun, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, said in a statement Wednesday. "After many years of deteriorating conditions, we are now seeing some steps in the right direction. Recently, we learned of $156 million in critical annual funding secured by Congressman Scott Peters for the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"With our emergency declaration and continued regional collaboration, the Port of San Diego will continue to push for additional funding to ensure this public health, environmental, and economic crisis is solved," Urtasun continued.

Port officials said over 100 billion gallons of untreated sewage, toxic chemicals, trash, sediment and other pollutants have flowed into the Tijuana River Valley and into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Imperial Beach.

The flow "is causing serious public health issues from polluted waters and airborne toxins, (to) ongoing beach closures in Imperial Beach and Coronado, and negative impacts on the South Bay economy. Contaminated flows are directed through treatment plants under the jurisdictions of the U.S. and Mexico federal governments. However, these facilities have failing and aging infrastructure," port officials said.

The port said the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission operates the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, and additional funding is needed to improve and expand the plant.

"The Port of San Diego is on the front lines of this fight as the state's trustee for beach and submerged lands in Imperial Beach," Commissioner Dan Malcolm said. "This crisis is sickening our South Bay communities and our beaches have been closed for nearly 850 days and counting. This environmental and public health nightmare must end! Our emergency declaration is a statement that we are still in this fight, and we will not stop advocating for every dime that is needed to stop the sewage once and for all."

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