In a March 2020 report, sewage had steadily spilled into riverbeds and valleys, which would usually be dry, in San Diego, California, near the Mexican border.
This cross-border sewage spill has caused a fair bit of public irritation due to the odors of the water infused with human excrement.
This situation is more than a little problematic, with many nuanced factors involved.
“The water flowing in the Tijuana River Valley comes from Mexico, and it is on its way to the ocean. On this day, 27 million gallons of sewage-tainted water, which also carries a slurry of toxic chemicals, runs untreated into the United States.
Some days the flows hit 50 million gallons. And this has been happening daily since November. Some weeks, 350 million gallons of dirty and dangerous water flows across the border.”
Crossborder sewage spillage is not a new issue, as Southern California has been dealing with overflow sewage from Mexico since the 1930s. Still, it does highlight a need for systems and procedures for dealing with sewage that is not produced by one’s nation.
The US implemented an International Waste Water Treatment Plant in the 1990s, reducing the overflow considerably.
After the documented issues above, the Voice of San Diego in February 2021 reports that Mexico’s inadequate and collapsing sewage system caused the problem.
Because of this, the US plans to fix the sewage problem by investing in a long-term, $425 million diversions and treatment facility on the US side of the border.
Implementing this long-term solution relies on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has money set aside for cross-border flows projects.
According to the article, Mexico has invested money into a new infrastructure – improvements on its PB-CILA pump station that is part of Tijuana’s wastewater system that constantly breaks down.
Rigoberto Laborin Valdes, the undersecretary of sanitation and water protection in Baja California, says Mexico will fix the sewage spill and won’t need the US EPA funding.
Improvements on its pumping station will divert sewage water from the Tijuana River – where all the trash from Mexico ends up, to a pump station in Mexico. The pump station then shreds the waste and filters the water. The problem is that the pump pipes are too small to handle the water and are constantly clogged by garbage.
The pipes were clogged several times. New shredders from the United States had to be installed to fix the problem, which it did momentarily until another pump from the Tijuana River diversion system broke again.
This time both countries will split the cost of $13 million 50-50 to fix the pump, although the EPA might cover all expenses, according to the article.
Meanwhile, pressures are rising from the US side of the border to develop a domestic solution to fix the problem.
Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach, the city closest to the border and experiences months-long beach closures from the spills, says that the US taxpayers’ money should be spent on the US side of the border on infrastructure that the country can manage and control.
With the changing climates and water shortages affecting the Southwestern states more than ever before, it is an excellent time to implement new solutions that will hopefully solve the issue permanently.
Long-term effective infrastructure solutions that span cross-border issues can take time and considerable effort to resolve.
Core infrastructure management practices – determining required service levels, consulting with stakeholders, factoring growth into the solution, risk management, and identification, will all assist in the development of long-term solutions.