State of emergency declared for the US-Mexico Transboundary Pollution Environmental Crisis

San Diego leaders hope this declaration will address sewage that has polluted waters off our coastline and resulted in closures at beaches.

IB Beach Warning sign

South Bay residents have seen these signs for 500+ consecutive days.

Photo via @cityofib

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This week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to declare a state of emergency for the US-Mexico Transboundary Pollution Environmental Crisis. Locals know sewage has been entering the Pacific Ocean in Imperial Beach from the Tijuana River for decades, and leaders hope this is a significant step in making improvements.

How does this help?

The state of emergency speaks to the severity of the issue, but according to County Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas and Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer it will:

  • Call for federal and state governments to work to secure more funding for repairs
  • Send an urgent message to Mexican officials to make repairs on the Punta Bandera pipeline that allows pollution to enter water through the Tijuana River Estuary
  • Streamline the allocation and expenditure of funding to make necessary repairs

With this declaration, the county’s chief administrative officer will assess the economic impacts of repairs, which must be presented within 120 days.

Why now?

The ongoing issue is allowing pollution to enter our water and air at a record pace. Following guidance from the Beach & Bay Water Program, the unsafe conditions have resulted in beach closures in IB for 550+ consecutive days. Coronado’s shoreline has also seen closures for ~80% of days in 2023.

Last year, the International Boundary and Water Commission secured $300 million from the US Environmental Protection Agency to address waste water in the Tijuana River Valley. This year, it was discovered that deferred maintenance on the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant is estimated to consume half of that budget.

Earlier this month, IB Mayor Paloma Aguirre penned a letter to the White House to encourage the Biden-Harris Administration to allocate more funding to issues caused by this pollution, as addressed in the EPA’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The federal government has not yet responded.