During the 17 days that is 140 million litres of raw sewage poured out of Mexico into the Tijuana River and then into the ocean fronting several popular South San Diego communities, not Mexican officially made known of the potential health and environmental risks.
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In spite of the silence when the spill began Feb. 6, about 200,000 people live in the South of San Diego, Imperial Beach and Chula Vista knew that something is wrong. Even a mile away from the Tijuana River they could smell the eye-watering, throat-burning, overwhelming smell of raw sewage. They would eventually learn this was the worst sewage spill in the region in a decade.
The leakage has resulted in a number of km from the beaches will be closed for five to six weeks from the Mexican border in the north of the city of Coronado. A beach by the border is still closed.
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“For San Diego, which is determined by the relationship with the ocean, this kind of massive sewage spill over the border is unacceptable,” the US. Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat who represents some of the affected areas, told Fox News. “Of surfing, the Navy and marine Corps presence, it drives our way of life and large parts of our economy.”
The united states Border and Water Commission, which operates under the U.S./Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 to oversee the hygiene, the quality of the water and floods in the border region, examines the recent sewage spill, and why Mexican wastewater authorities not to report, even if waste water was visible in the ocean and the beaches.
“We need cooperation on both sides of the border for this research to have all the answers on how this waste water oil spill. Then we can figure out how to apply resources to the border, to prevent it from happening again,” Peters said.
Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach, a working-class beach community whose border is adjacent to the Mexican border, said that it frustrating the leak had not been reported, although it can affect the health of the bathers, surfers, who, with the help of the many routes through the South of San Diego to cycling or walking and the owners of small businesses that perform the many organic farms, ranches and equestrian centers along the border.
“We never had anything like this – such as consistent complaints and the duration of the stench, so we knew that it is quite a serious problem,” Dedina said on Fox News.
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But this is not a one-time event — Dedina concerned with the drainage issues that come from Mexico every day. A lifelong resident of Imperial Beach, Dedina is seriously to work on the sewage problem since 2004. Since he became mayor two years ago, he worked daily on the problem. He is regarded as one of the leading experts on the matter.
“The real problem is that this consistently happens, there is no accountability, there is little transparency and almost no obligation to fix the problem,” Dedina said.
Mexican wastewater flows in the U.S. in two ways. Between 30 and 40 million gallons of wastewater are discharged every day on the beach of Mexico-Punta Banderas wastewater treatment plant, six miles south of the border, and during the south swells and south winds, the sewage is washed up on AMERICAN beaches, Dedina said.
“We take everything, and then go in the water, and then realize to late, we are awash in the sewage system. It is the worst feeling ever,” said Dedina, an avid surfer. “Last summer we had some of the worst consistent flow of wastewater across the border we had ever seen.”
The second way of Mexican wastewater flows in the U.S. is the Tijuana River. Approximately 15 million gallons per day of treated wastewater discharged into the Tijuana River, Dedina said.
“There is a diverter in the Tijuana River in Mexico to operate near the border, which in theory should be enabled, the time — but if there is an electrical fault or it breaks up, what often happens, the Tijuana River flows into the US and can pollute our beaches,” Dedina said.
The International Boundary and Water Commission reports that Mexico has no plans or timeline at all to turn on the diverter, Dedina said, which means that the river of treated waste water will flow freely in the U.S.
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Border Patrol Agents working along the Tijuana River were affected by the dust and smells. A decade ago, the National Border Patrol Council, which is the exclusive representative of some 2,400 Border Patrol agents, filed a related lawsuit and fought for “danger” for the agents in San Diego.
“We have had a number of complaints from agents about feeling sick or nauseous due to the sewage leakage,” confirmed union president Terence Shigg, pointing to the union may further, when the results of the recent environmental tests are returned.
Imperial Beach and adjacent to the Coronado has a large military presence. The Navy SEALs used to train in Imperial Beach, but due to health reasons, the Navy moved training, Dedina said.
In addition to the fact that it is the home of the famous big wave surf spot known as the Tijuana Sloughs, Imperial Beach is surrounded by breathtaking wildlife refuge sanctuaries. But last year, when it rained, water flooded the mouth and the hundreds of leopard sharks, among other sea creatures, died.
Dedina suggests that there must be a river management plan, new and improved infrastructure and regular river cleanups.
In the past week there is good news, Dedina said. The Mexican federal government and the governor of California have joined the effort to upgrade the sewage system in Tijuana, which will be partially funded by the AMERICAN taxpayers through the North American development bank and partly by the Mexican federal government.
“This is a big step,” Dedina said.
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focused on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration, crime, terrorism, and political corruption. Follow her on twitter via @MaliaMZimmerman