Surfrider Foundation to sue feds over border sewage spills

Sewage contamination sign

beach closure, contaminated water

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SAN DIEGO -- The Surfrider Foundation announced Tuesday that it is filing a lawsuit against the federal agency in charge of water and sanitation issues at the U.S.-Mexico border for its inability to stop Tijuana River sewage flows from polluting local beaches.

Specifically, the nonprofit foundation contends the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission has failed to comply with water quality standards, in addition to monitoring and reporting requirements of the Clean Water Act.

The foundation is finalizing its complaint and expects to file it this afternoon, said Angela Howe, the foundation's legal director.

``The Surfrider Foundation files this suit on behalf of all of the surfers, swimmers and everyone who loves the beach in south San Diego County. The IBWC must be held responsible for their flagrant violations of the Clean Water Act and wanton disregard for public health," she said.

The commission hasn't responded to the foundation's position that mismanagement of trans-border pollution has harmed residents, businesses and the Pacific Ocean, according to the Surfrider Foundation, which submitted a 60- day notice of intent to sue the commission on May 15.

Sewage spills related to inadequate wastewater infrastructure in the Tijuana River Valley have rankled government, environmental and recreational stakeholders for decades, in the process sickening people and causing beach closures as far north as Coronado.

Foundation officials specifically pointed to a February 2017 spill in which several hundred million gallons of raw sewage spewed into Imperial Beach and Coronado public beaches over a 17-day span. There haven't been attempts to remediate the area, according to Surfrider, nor have there been proposed solutions to remedy the issue at large.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Port of San Diego and cities of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach have also taken legal action against the commission over continuous sewage flows.

The agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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