IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — President Joe Biden is now asking for $310 million in emergency funding to address the Tijuana River sewage crisis which continues to plague southern beach communities.
“The situation is as dire as it’s ever been. That’s why these $310 million are so critical,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre.
Aguirre and other local leaders have desperately fought for years to get the federal government to take notice of the environmental and health crisis caused by the constant flow of raw sewage and chemicals from across the border.
“The local health clinic has seen a significant increase in gastrointestinal infections and we’ve had reports of some of our residents who live by the beach having some other types of illnesses,” Aguirre said.
The proposed $310 million in emergency funding would help fix and expand the International Wastewater Treatement Plant near San Ysidro, operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission.
The funds would supplement the $300 million approved in 2021 to help with the facility’s expansion, so it can double the amount of raw sewage treated daily, from 25 million to 50 million gallons.
The IBWC has documented that more than 37 billion gallons of polluted water has crossed the border just this year.
And right now, the facility is in urgent need of maintenance, especially after some added damage from Tropical Storm Hilary.
“Right where the river flow comes in from Tijuana — totally contaminated and right now, it’s not functioning properly and most of it’s not being treated,” said Coronado City Councilmember John Duncan, who is part of the IBWC advisory committee.
“The current plant that’s operating has $150 million in deferred maintenance… the new plant originally was estimated to be $600 million, it’s probably almost even closer to $1 billion, but we’ve had commitments to get the design out for the new plant, the EPA’s backing it, we need the rest of the funding every bit of it is a huge huge help so this $310 million, if we can get it through Congress, now that we have a speaker will be fantastic,” Duncan said.
Aguirre believes it’ll take around $1.5 billion to do the job right.
“We need additional funding, and most important of all, we need the president to declare a state of emergency. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not there yet,” Aguirre said.