Imperial Beach holds meeting on border sewage spills

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. -- The International Boundary and Water Commission has been taken to task by Imperial Beach city officials who are demanding they clean up the Tijuana River Valley after toxic debris flows have shut down the beaches once again.

The sewage is flowing from crumbling sewer lines in Mexico and the commission has been charged with collecting the refuse before it hits the ocean. The City of Imperial Beach says the commission has failed at their task and wants a federal judge to hold them responsible for keeping U.S. beaches clean. The commission says the task is not completely their responsibility, but a federal judge will make the final determination.

“Imperial Beach has been closed almost 30 days this year. That's almost twice the average,” city councilwoman Paloma Aguirre said at a meeting Thursday evening.

Residents say the frustration over cross-border sewage flows has been an issue for decades but now, for the first time, there are finally some aggressive steps being taken to hold the commission responsible for not completing their mandate to catch and clean the polluted runoff before it hits the oceans and beaches.

"You have the City of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, the Port of San Diego, the state of California, the City of San Diego all joining in on the lawsuit. That speaks volumes to the political will to take action against this issue," Aguirre said.

For the first time, Mayor Serge Dedina says Mexican officials are admitting the problems and agreeing to prioritize a solution.

"They just met with high-level officials in Mexico City. I got the report that they were given sort of the list of priorities and it's everything that we want. So that's good news. Now we need to see them fix it."

Dedina says while he appreciates the help Mexico provides, the threat to unfettered pollution hitting his city is unacceptable and he needs his own defense.

"It's a San Diego problem, it's a Chula Vista problem, it's a Coronado problem, it's all of our problem, so we're going to make sure we have clean beaches all the time," Dedina said.

City officials say they could have a settlement or a ruling in 3 to 4 months.

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