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May 13, 2011

San Diego-Tijuana Community Celebrates Upgrade of the International Wastewater Treatment Plant

By Ben McCue
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Commissioner Drusina: "this is a big step forward in international cooperation to improve water quality along our shared border"

May 13, 2011

Today officials and community members from the United States and Mexico inaugurated the upgrade of the International Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Ysidro. This ribbon-cutting event marks the end of a decade-long effort to have the plant, which discharges treated sewage into the Pacific Ocean, meet Clean Water Act standards. In accordance with a binational treaty, the plant treats 25 million gallons a day of sewage collected in Tijuana.

For years, a lack of adequate sewage infrastructure in the border region has posed a serious environmental and health threat to the communities of San Diego and Tijuana. This problem has gradually worsened over the years with the substantial growth of Tijuana's population and industrial sector. Large volumes of untreated wastewater still flow into the Tijuana River valley today.

In July 1990 the U.S. and Mexico agreed to build an International Wastewater Treatment Plant (IWTP) on the U.S. side of the border as part of a regional solution. This facility is now treating sewage flows that exceed the capacity of the existing Tijuana sewage treatment system. In doing so, it plays a key role in restoring the environmental quality of the Tijuana River valley and safeguarding the health of border region residents.

The U.S. wastewater plant is run by the boundary commission, which operates sewage and flood control projects all along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The San Ysidro facility has never met the “secondary treatment” standards in U.S. law. That’s partly because the commission couldn’t afford to complete all of the necessary infrastructure within its initial budget of $239 million.

For much of the past decade, treatment upgrades were on hold while a San Diego County company called Bajagua lobbied for a federal contract to build and operate a separate plant in Mexico. That effort fell apart in May 2008, when thanks to the advocacy work by WiLDCOAST and the Imperial Beach community, the U.S. government decided to upgrade the San Ysidro facility rather than build a new plant in Tijuana.

On hand to celebrate the occasion were Baja California Governor Osuna Millan, IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina, CILA Commissioner Roberto Salmon, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams, WiLDCOAST Executive Director Serge Dedina, and many other agency officials and community members.