Feinstein, Padilla, Vargas, Colleagues Urge EPA, IBWC to Address Pollution in the Tijuana River Valley
Jul 29 2022
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Representative Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) and the San Diego congressional delegation to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to consider funding projects that would address the transboundary water pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.
“Southern Californians have suffered too long from sewage and toxic waste from Mexico polluting our beaches and communities,” said Senator Feinstein. “Together, we were able to secure more than $300 million to address the problem. It’s imperative that the federal government expedite approval of these projects to stop the pollution and protect the health of San Diegans and other Southern California residents.”
“Robust action to clean up polluted water flowing north from the Tijuana River is long overdue,” said Senator Padilla. “That is why I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, as well as with the Biden administration, to improve water quality throughout the border region and particularly within the Tijuana River estuary.”
“I’m proud to lead my colleagues in the fight to address the cross-border pollution impacting my constituents and our binational region,” said Rep. Vargas. “Our California delegation has been working diligently to take meaningful action against harmful pollutants and ensure the health and safety of communities on both sides of the border. I strongly urge the EPA and IBWC to fully consider projects that would significantly improve and address transboundary water pollution in our region.”
“Pollution from Tijuana River Valley has plagued our region for generations, and it is critical that the $300 million in federal funding we secured to stop the flow of this pollution is put to use effectively and efficiently,” said Rep. Levin. “I appreciate the Biden Administration’s attention to this important issue and urge them to advance appropriate projects as soon as possible.”
“The sewage and pollution flowing through the Tijuana River Valley have been a decades-long crisis for both sides of the border,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs. “This toxic exposure continues to pose a direct threat to our marine ecosystems, our economy, and our quality of life. Our delegation has worked tirelessly to address this crisis, and we’re hopeful the federal agencies will continue to acknowledge the severity of this problem for San Diegans and fully consider projects that will provide rapid, long-overdue relief for our impacted communities.”
“This long-overdue cleanup of the Tijuana River Valley stands to transform the quality of life throughout the region – especially San Diego County,” said Rep. Darrell Issa. “I am proud to have worked alongside my colleagues in our San Diego Congressional delegation as well as local, state, and federal leaders to advance key new funding and make this project a reality.”
The full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Administrator Regan and Commissioner Giner,
The binational Tijuana River Watershed covers approximately 1,750 square miles that spans across the California -Mexico border. Within the Tijuana River Valley (TRV) there are some of the most ecologically significant marine ecosystems on the Pacific Coast: the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Tijuana River Valley Regional Park Reserve, Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area, San Diego Bay, and the National Wildlife Refuge.
Over the past 30 years, Tijuana, Mexico has experienced tremendous population and industrial growth with rapid urbanization which has put a strain on the aging sewage infrastructure in the region. As a result of the sewage infrastructure inadequacies, the Tijuana River carries untreated wastewater, trash, and sediment from Mexico across California’s Southern border into the United States.
Untreated wastewater, sediment, and trash flowing through the Tijuana River contain harmful bacteria that pose risks to both wildlife and human health. To minimize human contact with the untreated wastewater the San Diego County beaches have been closed numerous times. In 2018, South San Diego County beaches affected by the Tijuana River pollution were closed 101 days out of the year. In 2019, that increased to 243 days, and in 2020 the beaches were closed 295 days out of the year.
Transboundary water flow crossing into the United States from Mexico have raised environmental, water quality, and public health concerns for decades. That’s why we were proud to fight for and secure $300 million as part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to address transboundary pollution in the watershed. We are grateful to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Regan for coming out to see the Tijuana River Valley pollution firsthand in August 2021 as they work towards taking the necessary steps to solve this decades - long problem that has disproportionately impacted working-class minority communities on the California – Mexico border and across San Diego County.
We have been told that the projects considered in the EPA and U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission’s (USIBWC) Comprehensive Infrastructure Solution for mitigating transborder water pollution might significantly improve the quality of water in the Tijuana River and on the beaches of both Mexico and the United States. To ensure rapid relief for affected communities, we encourage the Biden administration to provide these projects full and fair consideration on the merits that are consistent with all applicable laws and regulations to ensure that these projects proceed as expeditiously as possible.
We look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues, the EPA and the USIBWC on these issues moving forward.