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Tijuana pipe break leaking millions of gallons of sewage into coastal waters, IB officials say

Posted at 2:53 PM, Dec 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 12:10:49-05

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) - A recent break to a sewage pipe south of the U.S.-Mexico border is allowing sewage to flow freely into the Tijuana River Valley and Pacific Ocean, officials say.

The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) said they were alerted to the break in the Tijuana sewage pipe by Mexico authorities recently. The pipe broke Dec. 7, according to Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, though the city was notified Tuesday.

IBWC officials said Wednesday, "CESPT (Tijuana Water Utility) has informed us through the Mexican Section that a rupture was discovered yesterday on the Colector Poniente in Southeast Tijuana. This rupture caused the soil above the pipe to collapse in an auto junkyard. Several sinkholes were discovered yesterday by the workers at the property and notified CESPT who then diverted the flows upstream to a stormwater collector which drains to the Tijuana River. "

The IBWC estimated the flow of sewage into the Tijuana River to be at 300 liters per second, or approximately 7 millions gallons per day.

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In a press conference Tuesday, Dedina renewed calls against the IBWC for "failure" to stop sewage from making its way into the river valley and eventually, the Pacific Ocean along Imperial Beach.

"There’s one major reason that these massive sewage spills continue to happen: The International Boundary Water Commission is refusing to obey the United States’ clean water protection laws and failing in its responsibility to protect the Tijuana River, the Pacific Ocean, our beaches, and our community. The IBWC has informed us that this latest spill is dumping 'between 6-7 million gallons per day into the Tijuana River.' This is ridiculous and it’s threatening the health, safety, and economy of Imperial Beach and surrounding communities. While I have demanded an investigation into this latest spill, that alone is not enough. Our residents and businesses are literally sick and tired of being notified by the IBWC of yet another massive spill, waiting for an after-the-fact review, and then seeing nothing change. Already in 2018, tens of millions of gallons of untreated sewage have poured through our community, and the IBWC is doing nothing to stop it."

Dedina said later Tuesday that 12 miles of coastline were closed because of the sewage leak.

An IBWC official said an engineer was currently assessing the damage to the pipe, but could not offer more specifics.

In March 2018, Imperial Beach joined with the City of Chula Vista, and the Unified Port District of San Diego in a lawsuit against the IBWC for being in violation of the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit contends that federal inaction has led to tens of millions of gallons of "almost continuous" sewage to foul South Bay communities.

Officials discussed the latest leak at a press conference: