State officials ask EPA for action on cross-border pollution

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SAN DIEGO — The State Lands Commission and State Controller pleaded with the Environmental Protection Agency in a letter Friday asking for immediate action to stop the flow of 50 million gallons per day of polluted water into the Tijuana River Valley.

That polluted water flow has created significant and ongoing beach closures in Imperial Beach and Coronado.

“The State Lands Commission is deeply concerned about the latest flows of untreated wastewater into the Tijuana River and the impacts of this pollution on community health and public lands,” said State Controller and State Lands Commission Chair Betty Yee. “It is imperative the U.S. EPA collaborate with the Mexican government and International Border and Water Commission to prevent ongoing cross-border pollution and bring a swift end to this crisis.”

Lieutenant Governor and State Lands Commissioner Eleni Kounalakis joined the call to Washington.

“The U.S. EPA must provide leadership at this critical moment. The U.S. section of the Tijuana River Valley must be restored so that the health and safety of California’s residents, visitors, wildlife and natural resources are no longer threatened,” she said.

The authors points out that lack of infrastructure on the U.S. side of the border is one reason the crisis has grown to beach-closing proportions.

The letter follows the late-January signing of the United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement, which guarantees $300 million to help tackle the Tijuana River Valley pollution crisis.

That money — over four years — will fortify water treatment facilities in the valley, namely the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant. In December, Congress passed a $1.4 trillion federal spending deal that includes $25 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Border Water Infrastructure Program, $10 million more than the last year’s allocation.

Transborder pollution from the Tijuana River has contaminated waters and coastlines for decades, forcing San Diego County environmental health officials to regularly close beach access near the border. During that time, local and state officials and environmental activists have called for federal assistance to protect the health of the environment and residents near the border.

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