IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — The city of Imperial Beach is asking the U.S. Department of State to declare a state of emergency over ongoing pollution coming from south of the border, in particular raw sewage.

Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre says the bacteria levels in the water along are at “astronomical” levels and have led to consistent beach closures since Dec. 2021.

“I’ve asked for a state of emergency, because just like a tornado or a hurricane or a tsunami that can lead to a natural disaster, the levels of pollution that we’re talking about are impacting us,” said Aguirre.

According to Aguirre, measurements of the environmental DNA in the area are 17,000 points above the norm.

“This is a very serious crisis to our public health, our economy and our environment,” said Aguirre. “It impacts our economy when the beaches are closed. People who ignore the warnings and go in the water face the possibility of multiple infections to their eyes, skin and digestive tract.”

Aguirre added the beach closures, due to the pollution from the sewage, depletes the quality of life in her city.

“Recent studies by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography show that viruses and pathogens in the water can also be transmitted by the air,” the mayor noted.

If an emergency declaration is made, emergency funds can be distributed faster said Aguirre, who stated that $430 million is needed to expand a treatment plant in the Tijuana River Valley.