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Threat of lawsuit prompts feds offer local workshop on border sewage spills

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission announced Thursday that it wants to hold a workshop with San Diego-area cities and agencies in hopes of staving off a lawsuit over the flow of sewage from Mexico.

The cities of Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and San Diego, the county of San Diego and Port of San Diego have declared their intent to sue the USIBWC — an agency is responsible for water treaties covering Mexico and this country — over continued spills that have fouled water on both sides of the border.

The notice of intent gave the commission two months to create a plan to reduce or end polluted waters coming across the border. The county, cities and port can go ahead with a lawsuit if they don’t find the plan acceptable.

The U.S. Justice Department made the request to hold a workshop on behalf of the USIBWC in a letter to the local jurisdictions.

“We want to work with the community to address these concerns cooperatively rather than through litigation,” said Commissioner Edward Drusina. “The USIBWC continues to work with our partners to take concrete actions to improve sanitation conditions at the border.”

In its announcement, the commission outlined a series of steps it has taken in response to the spills, including:

  • developing a more detailed protocol for providing notification of spills;
  • forming a working group to address trans-border issues in the Tijuana River Valley;
  • embarking on a study of infrastructure that could reduce the impact of flows into the valley;
  • updating a plan for regular water quality testing; and
  • working with the Mexican Section of the IBWC to finalize operating protocols to ensure more reliable operation of equipment that diverts wastewater out of the river.