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March 22, 2012

WiLDCOAST Pushes for Increased Focus on Uncollected Sewage Flows That Cause Beach Closures

As regulators identify improvements needed for International Waste Water Treatment Plant

WiLDCOAST pushes for increased focus on the uncollected sewage flows that result in beach closures.

Yesterday, the United States District Court heard a report from the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board that identified improvements needed at the International Waste Water Treatment Plant. The plant is operated by the United States International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) and treats sewage collected in Tijuana, Mexico, in accordance with an international treaty. Treated sewage is discharged out of a pipe 3.5 miles off shore of Border Field State Park. In 2011, an upgrade was made to the plant to improve sewage treatment and meet Clean Water Act standards. Monitoring reports since the upgrade indicate that the plant has not been meeting effluent standards and now the Regional Board is working with the USIBWC to identify solutions.

For years, the environmental group WiLDCOAST has advocated for increased sewage collection and treatment in the Tijuana-San Diego border region as a way to reduce sewage-related health threats for beach users. The group applauds the state and federal agencies’ determination to improve sewage treatment at the International Treatment Plant, but state that more must be done.

"It is good to see that the Regional Board and USIBWC are working to meet Clean Water Act standards for what is discharged 3.5 miles offshore. We'd like to see the same priority given to the uncollected cross-border flows of sewage in the Tijuana River that regularly impact beaches from Tijuana to Coronado." said WiLDCOAST Conservation Director Ben McCue.

The Regional Board is in the process of writing a new discharge permit for the International Treatment Plant. WiLDCOAST is asking that this permit require that the USIBWC monitor all sewage flows that enter the United States via the Tijuana River and its tributaries and notify the public when there is a health threat. According to WiLDCOAST, this monitoring data would provide a baseline for stakeholder groups such as the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team to measure progress as they work to restore the Tijuana River.

“With every winter storm, hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage impact the Tijuana River Valley, the estuary and our beaches, yet no one is responsible for collecting water quality data or for notifying the public of these cross-border sewage flows. This is unacceptable,” stated McCue.

For more information please contact Paloma Aguirre U.S.-Mexico Border Coastal Program Manager at 619.423.8665 ext 211