Friday, March 23, 2018

Tijuana River Toxic Waste Suit

By Karen Robes Meeks

This month, the San Diego Unified Port District and City of Chula Vista joined the City of Imperial Beach in a lawsuit to stop toxic waste and sewage from flowing from the Tijuana River to the ocean, according to the port.

The lawsuit is against the International Boundary and Water Commission and Veolia Water North America, who city and port officials claim that their operation of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment plant has been violating federal laws for years.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment Thursday because the matter is in active litigation.

“The ongoing sewage spills causing beach closures and making people sick in Imperial Beach are an environmental and human disaster and it’s getting worse, with 28 beach closures since Jan. 1,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. “We are filing this lawsuit as a last resort and we welcome the involvement of the City of Chula Vista and Port of San Diego. We encourage other communities and interested parties to join us in finding a permanent solution to what might be the worst ongoing environmental violations in the United States.”

A unified strategy is needed to resolve this regional issue, said Port of San Diego Commissioner Dan Malcolm.

“All residents of San Diego County are affected by the Tijuana River pollution because it damages our shared coastal assets,” he said. “After careful consideration, the Port of San Diego has decided to take this issue to the courts to force federal action. The only way the Port can address this problem is through the federal government because we do not oversee the source of the spills or the area where the federal sewage treatment plant is located.”

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom on March 2 expressed his support for the lawsuit.

"The IBWC's failure to address pollution and protect environmental and public health in the border region is unacceptable,” Newsom said. “California' pristine coastline is protected by some of the most visionary policies and steadfast advocates to ensure the persistence of vibrant ecosystems, thriving ports, and public access for all. I applaud the efforts of the Port San of San Diego and the Cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista to uphold these values in their action against the IBWC for its culpability in the all-too-frequent pollution events in San Diego."