/The Big Choice Facing the EPA

The Big Choice Facing the EPA

Untreated sewage from Punta Bandera, an out-of-operation wastewater treatment plant south of Tijuana, spills into the Pacific Ocean. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

There’s finally real money on the table for the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about the Tijuana sewage that pollutes the coast.

But now the EPA must make a choice about which side of the border will get that investment, write Mackenzie Elmer and Vicente Calderón in their latest story. The Tijuana River is one source of pollution, but a giant pipe into the ocean on the Mexican side is another.

A study commissioned by the EPA from researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that reducing flows from Punta Bandera — the giant pipe — would have a dramatic effect on sewage.

Mexican officials have also said they would like the EPA to consider supporting part of their plan to fix the sewage issue, which entails collecting some of the water and sewage river runoff, treating it naturally by filtering it through the ground, and diverting it to a dam so it can be reused.

Several Southern California governments, however, including leaders from Imperial Beach and San Diego, said in a recent letter to the EPA that they are concerned the agency is prioritizing projects that enhance Mexico’s systems and reduce sewage to Punta Bandera “rather than the protection of water quality within California’s Tijuana River Valley.” Those leaders are pushing for a bigger wastewater treatment plant on the U.S. side – infrastructure that they can control.

There are other things the EPA must consider, Elmer and Calderón write, like the lower costs for labor, materials and energy in Mexico and trust issues, since the Mexican government is often plagued by corruption and a constant churn of new administrative personnel.

San Diego Expands Wi-Fi as Budget Hearings Approach

San Diego is expanding internet access to some 53,000 households by providing free Wi-Fi at more than 300 locations. The city has also launched a new website with more details and a map of where people can find those locations. The City Council allocated $500,000 in the current fiscal year budget to help pay for it. 

In an announcement, the city said people can check out new laptops for up to two hours at a time as well as mobile hotspots from select libraries. NBC 7 reports that free Wi-Fi will also be available at parks and in neighborhoods “where the need is greatest.” 

The timing of it all is interesting if you consider that Gloria’s proposed $4.6 billion budget includes, as City News Service noted, reduced library hours. Thanks in part to the pandemic, the city is facing an expected budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year of $124 million. Yet Gloria’s budget overall represents a 13.4 percent increase, much of it attributed to the Pure Water project. 

For more on the budget — there’s a lot to digest — Lisa Halverstadt is moderating a panel Thursday for VOSD members. Councilman Chris Cate, who chairs the Budget & Government Efficiency Committee, is holding public hearings on the budget starting May 5.

Members of the City Council voiced concern Tuesday to library cuts and a proposed $19 million increase to the city’s police budget.

In Other News

  • U-T columnist Charles Clark reviews the law enforcement responses to the newspaper’s series of stories about racial disparities in policing and writes that, while some of the criticisms have merit, the responses miss the larger point: “The onus isn’t on Black people and other people of color to get over our fear of police.” 
  • In the meantime, SDPD officers have been going into businesses to explain how to report hate incidents and crimes against people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Income inequality is soaring and millions of people still don’t have health insurance in the United States. But hey, we’ve now got a helicopter on Mars thanks to Qualcomm. (NBC 7) 
  • 10News dug through data published by EdSource and found that seven of the eight community colleges in San Diego saw double-digit drops in enrollment between 2019 and 2020.
  • Some local megachurches are taking anti-vaccine stances and may be influencing their followers to not get vaccinated. (KPBS)

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan, and edited by Sara Libby.