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Tijuana River ranks among top 10 most endangered U.S. rivers

Tijuana River
Posted at 5:12 PM, Apr 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-16 20:12:48-04

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) — The South Bay community has been dealing with contaminated water from cross-border pollution for decades. But now advocates are hopeful getting the national spotlight on this issue will get them closer to a solution.

"We're breathing in chemicals. We're breathing in bacteria, and it makes it very difficult especially when we can smell it ... because we're worried about what we're breathing in," said Bethany Case.

Case sees it first hand not just as a resident of Imperial Beach, but as a volunteer for the Surfrider Foundation.

But, like many others, she is hopeful the latest designation by American Rivers will change that.

On Tuesday, the Tijuana River has been named one of the country's "most endangered," according to a report releasedby the national organization focused on clean water and river health.

The 120-mile long intermittent river that flows into the Pacific Ocean in San Diego County was ranked No. 9 on American Rivers' report. The river is heavily polluted from raw sewage and chemical contaminants from the city of Tijuana.

“But nationally it's not a huge deal ... We know that when there is outcry beyond the borders of the issue, that gets people in the federal government to listen and be aware,” Case said.

"This designation reaffirms what our communities already know too well," said U.S. Representative Juan Vargas in a statement. "For too long, sewage in the Tijuana River Valley has harmed public health, our local economies, and our ecosystems."

Case said she’s hopeful this will get people moving to find the money to pay for a solution.

“A lot of the community here is at or below the poverty line. That's really important to advocate for neighbors who can't advocate for themselves,” she said.