War of words heats up over international efforts to clean up border sewage

Border Report

SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla is involved in a war of words with a California mayor over cleanup efforts along the Tijuana River Valley, which lies between Tijuana and the city of San Diego.

For decades, raw sewage, trash and debris have flowed from south of the border into the U.S.

Most of those materials, especially the raw sewage, end up in the Pacific Ocean, forcing the closure of beaches in cities like Imperial Beach where over the last nine months, beaches have been closed 180 days due to high bacteria levels in the ocean water.

The Tijuana River Valley is noticeably drier since Tijuana and Baja California officials cleaned up the channel and fixed portions of their sewer system south of the border. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, who has been trying to find a solution to the problem for a long time, is applauding recent efforts south of the border to fix the issue.

The city of Tijuana and the state of Baja California have been cleaning up the river channel and fixing pumps and sewer lines. It has noticeably made a difference as there is less sewage in the valley north of the border.

Recently, Dedina said “more needs to be done.”

This caught the ire of Bonilla, who accused Dedina of lying and exaggerating the level of pollution.

“The vast amount of this contamination comes from American companies operating in Tijuana discharging their waste into the river, that’s where he needs to focus his attention,” Bonilla said.

But Dedina says Bonilla is grandstanding.

“They’re taking water out of the river so there’s no flow, they’re sending it six miles south of the border dumping it in the beach so when there’s a south swell south wind, like there was on Labor Day, our beaches are massively polluted with pollution levels off the charts,” Dedina said.

Border Report spoke with a representative inside Bonilla’s office. He said the governor is aware of sewage flow south of Tijuana and is working on it, but insisted the problem in the Tijuana River Valley is fixed.

Dedina sees it differently.

He says until Tijuana and Baja California fix all their problems, the sewage will continue flowing in the currents north of the border shutting down the beaches in his city.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency pledged millions of dollars to help with more sewage clean up infrastructure along the Tijuana River Valley, but that help won’t arrive for quite some time.

Dedina says it will help a lot, but until Baja California and Tijuana do more, it’s going to be a challenge.

“Bonilla claims the problem is fixed and his mad at me because I’m saying there’s a lot of work to do, so attacking me isn’t going to fix sewer system in Tijuana,” he said.

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