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Imperial Beach Mayor hopes EPA moves up timeline for sewage fix

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Posted at 4:02 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 20:53:40-04

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) — As residents flock to the coast this summer to enjoy the beach, South Bay residents continue to face sewage in waters along the southern border.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina says he's personally been contacting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging them to do something.

"Putting up burms, doing anything they can to prevent water coming across the roads and recently we had rain that caused extensive beach closures in South County," Dedina said.

Last year, the EPA announced it was dedicating $300 million to address the pollution issues in the Tijuana River Valley, via the newly negotiated United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). But the agency has yet to decide exactly how to spend the money.

Dedina says there's no time to waste, building infrastructure and holding officials south of the border accountable.

RELATED: USMCA deal to send funds to fix Tijuana River sewage issue in South Bay

"We can't let Mexico off the hook either, we have to stop making excuses about why Mexico can't fix their sewer system and push them a lot harder to do so," Dedina added.

And the beaches are back open for the busy July 4th weekend.

"Things look good, we get north wind that pushes anything to the south, so we're looking good for the weekend and we want people to enjoy themselves and have a fun time in IB," said Dedina.

But he says he also knows it's likely just a matter of time before they close again.

The EPA is currently studying at least 10 projects to address the pollution problem in the Tijuana River Valley. The International Boundary and Water Commission says design and construction are expected in 2023.

In January, Imperial Beach's Environmental and Natural Resources Director Chris Helmer told ABC 10News that even after projects are approved, they'll have to undergo environmental reviews. At the time, there was little clarity as to what Mexico was planning to implement in regards to water reuse projects and increasing treatment capacity, Helmer added.

Last summer, the EPA helped Mexico with funding to repair various sections of broken sewer mains, according to Helmer, including new pumps at the Tijuana pumping plant, PB CILA, in August. Mexico was also working to improve PB CILA's diversion system to better manage transboundary flows.

"Even with these recent improvements, Mexico still has a very fragile wastewater system with vulnerable sewer mains, damaged pump stations, and an unreliable diversion system at PB CILA. We have learned to expect damage to the Mexican wastewater system after any major storm so we are definitely worried about the rainstorms in the forecast," Helmer said in January.

"We believe all the policy tools and existing allocated funds are already in place for a comprehensive solution to the Tijuana River problem. This includes expanding treatment and conveyance capacity in Mexico, water reuse of treated wastewater in Mexico, expanded river diversion in Mexico at PB CILA, backup diversion and pollution control basins in the U.S., and expanded treatment capacity at the IBWC treatment plant," Helmer added.