The EPA announced on 18 August 2022 that the longstanding sewage problem between the U.S. and Mexico border, mainly the untreated wastewater from Tijuana’s sewage system flowing and polluting San Diego’s beaches and coastal waters, is getting fixed.
Mexico’s water treatment plant near the U.S. border is simply incapable of handling the waste produced by Tijuana city’s 2.2 million residents. Breaking pipes regularly pour millions of gallons of sewage-tainted water into the United States.
Bursting sewage pipes means that wastewater makes its way into the Tijuana River. The river’s mouth empties into the ocean just below the city of Imperial Beach, a residential beach in San Diego County, instead of being flushed into the sea about six miles south of the border.
In the case of strong swells from Baja, sewage could reach the coast directly, resulting in beach closures in Southern California.
To address these persistent sewage spill problems between the two countries, the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico (IBWC), announced the IBWC Minute No. 328, “Sanitation Infrastructure Projects in San Diego, California – Tijuana, Baja California for Immediate Implementation and for Future Development,” has entered into force.
“The agreement outlines sanitation projects to be constructed in San Diego and Tijuana using $330 million from the U.S. government and 144 million dollars from the Mexican government. With this funding, projects are expected to be completed and operational by the end of 2027, which would result in a 50% reduction in the number of days of transboundary wastewater flow in the Tijuana River and an 80% reduction in the volume of untreated wastewater discharged to the Pacific Ocean six miles (10 kilometers) south of the border.”
Minute 328 also highlights the following projects for implementation:
“Doubling the capacity of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) in the United States and constructing a new treatment plant in Mexico at San Antonio de Los Buenos. With these two projects, the amount of Mexican sewage undergoing treatment in the region will increase by 43 million gallons per day (2,991 liters per second), reducing sewage in both the Tijuana River and the Pacific Ocean. Other projects include rehabilitating or replacing deteriorated sewer lines and pump stations in Tijuana to reduce line breaks and pump failures resulting in sewage spills.”
U.S. Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner says, “Minute 328 marks a key milestone in our effort to improve conditions in the Tijuana River Valley in partnership with EPA,” said Commissioner Giner. “Their Statement of Intent coupled with this Minute will provide continuity over time. Once these projects are completed, residents on both sides of the border will have a healthier, cleaner environment for years to come.”
Adriana Resendez, Mexican Commissioner, also notes that “these efforts are expected to address a need that has prevailed for many years in the communities of San Diego-Tijuana, to solve the problem of transboundary wastewater that impacts the water quality of the region’s beaches and that also constitutes a threat to the public health of residents in the area.”
The implementation of these projects, co-funded by the U.S. government and Mexico, reflects the commitment of both sides to address these pressing health and environmental issues that have affected the area for many years.
Completing the project will improve residents’ quality of life on both sides of the border through better sanitation and water management.
U.S. and Mexico agree to invest $474M to address Tijuana River sewage problem. (2022 18 August). EPA. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/us-and-mexico-agree-invest-474m-address-tijuana-river-sewage-problem
Anderson, E. (2022 22 August). US-Mexico sewage solution hits snag on Capitol Hill. KPBS Retrieved from https://www.kpbs.org/news/politics/2022/08/22/u-s-mexico-sewage-solution-hits-snag-on-capitol-hill
Elmer, M. (2022, 2 August). Lots of Tijuana’s Sewage Is Crossing the Border Right Now. Here’s Why. Voice of San Diego. Retrieved from https://voiceofsandiego.org/2022/08/02/lots-of-tijuanas-sewage-is-crossing-the-border-right-now-heres-why/