/City Council to Discuss Joining Calif. Lawsuit Over Tijuana Sewage Flows

City Council to Discuss Joining Calif. Lawsuit Over Tijuana Sewage Flows

The San Diego City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to join a California lawsuit against the International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC) over sewage flow from Tijuana, Mexico into the United States. 

Ahead of the council vote in closed session, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilmember Vivian Moreno were speaking publicly Monday to urge the council to vote in favor of joining the lawsuit. 

Attorney General Xavier Baccerra and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board are suing the United States section of the IBWC over claims the agency is not adequately managing sewage-contaminated flows across the border.

The lawsuit alleges millions of gallons of waste, including untreated sewage, trash, pesticides and heavy metals have been discharged from the IBWC’s treatment facilities in violation of the Clean Water Act. 

Shorelines of Imperial Beach and the Tijuana Estuary are often closed to the public after spills on the Mexican side of the border, and also due to contaminated runoff following rainfall. The lawsuit claimed beaches in Imperial Beach were closed around 150 days a year due to contaminated runoff. 

Closures sometimes extend as far north as Silver Strand State Beach and Coronado.

The lawsuit is asking the court to force the IBWC to comply with the Clean Water Act and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, federal attorneys argued that the IBWC is not responsible for the millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage that flow into the Pacific Ocean from the Tijuana area

The IBWC “has not violated any environmental law, and, in fact, has done nothing to worsen cross-border pollution. Rather, by constructing and operating a treatment plant in San Diego… IBWC has greatly reduced the problem’s scale,” attorneys said. 

The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, the Port of San Diego and the local environmental organization, Surfrider Foundation, have all expressed their intent to file federal lawsuits against the IBWC. 

The Tijuana crosses the U.S.-Mexico border just west of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry and travels northwest, through the Tijuana River Estuary and into the Pacific Ocean south of Imperial Beach.