South Bay leaders file lawsuit over Tijuana sewage spills

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) - The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vistas, and the Port of San Diego, are suing the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission for allowing sewage to flow from Mexico's Tijuana River Valley into the U.S.

The lawsuit accuses the commission, which is in charge of U.S.-Mexico water treaties, of violating the Clean Water Act.

The plaintiffs say federal inaction has led to tens of millions of gallons of "almost continuous" sewage to foul South Bay communities.

RELATED: Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina speaks out after latest Tijuana sewage spill

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said the commission has long been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and he told 10News the South Bay communities have been just too nice and too diplomatic to do anything, until now.

Dedina said the issue has hit very close to home, as his son, who is a lifeguard, became sick last July from polluted water and then fell ill three months later.

The lawsuit seeks the construction of basic infrastructure that should already be in place, including storm drains and a diversion system to stop toxic waste from reaching South Bay shorelines.

An attorney told 10News he expects the lawsuit to be settled within months.

RELATED: Conservationist says San Diegans are swimming in toxic sludge in the Tijuana River

Authorities on the U.S. side of the border are frequently forced to close beaches as far north as the Hotel del Coronado following storms, when sewage is driven out of Baja and into American waters.

The Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Border Field State Park are currently closed for swimming following rain this week. County environmental health officials say that the access road to Friendship Park may even be contaminated with Mexican sewage.

A particularly extreme example of the problem came last March after a wastewater collector in Tijuana collapsed and sewage was diverted into the Tijuana and Alamar rivers during repair work.

The breakdown resulted in the flow of at least 28 million gallons of raw sewage from Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, causing a widespread stench and elevated levels of E. coli bacteria in the Tijuana River Valley.

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