Navy asked to investigate cross-border sewage spills

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego congresswoman Susan Davis might ask the U.S. Navy to look at border sewage spills that have rankled a wide variety of government, environmental and recreational stakeholders for years.

Davis, a Democrat, proposes an assessment of how sewage flow from the Tijuana River might affect the construction of a $1 billion Navy SEAL training center proposed for a strip of land south of Silver Strand State Beach.

"We know the environmental and economic impact these spills have. What we don't know, with the Navy planning to stage training operations in potentially contaminated waters, are the national security concerns," Davis said. "The Navy should take a look at this and coordinate with relevant agencies to assess what can be done to prevent future spills."

Davis, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, may include language in this year's defense bill to commission a Navy report regarding the cumulative tens of millions of gallons of sewage that have sickened people and forced South Bay beach closures.

The 600-acre SEAL training campus is estimated to take 10 years to complete, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Personnel are expected to gradually migrate from the existing Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.

Davis' call for a Navy report comes as the Port of San Diego and cities of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach forge ahead with a lawsuit alleging the federal government is violating two U.S. laws that protect water quality and public health. The suit also targets the private operator of a treatment plant that serves Tijuana.

Beaches as far north as the Hotel del Coronado have been forced to close as sewage is driven out of Baja into American waters.

In 2010, former U.S. Border Patrol agent Josh Willey contracted a flesh-eating bacterial infection while training at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado. The infection is thought to be related to sewage spills.

The Mexican government announced in March it will invest $4.35 million in upgrades to Tijuana's wastewater system to reduce sewage flows, but funds fall far short of the approximately $330 million in recommended upgrades outlined by the Baja California government. Local residents say they will take any help they can get and if Rep. Davis wants to get more leverage they are all for it.  "You've got San Diego, the Harbor patrol, the county and Imperial beach all suing and I guess she's just piling on," said Dr. Todd Peterson.