EPA announces $630 million plan to stem cross-border sewage flows

Once approved, these infrastructure projects will treat contaminated water before it’s released into the ocean.


Signs warn of contaminated water at Imperial Beach, California, in 2018, where sewage sometimes flows across the U.S.-Mexico border. Last month, the U.S. EPA announced that it had created a $630 million plan to address this long-standing cross-border hazard.
Gregory Bull/AP Photo

Want to catch up on big developments quickly? See more stories here.

In March of 2018, the California cities of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego sued the U.S. arm of the International Boundary and Water Commission over its failure to mitigate the flow of sewage-tainted water from the Tijuana River in Mexico. The lawsuit was in response to a February 2017 crisis, when more than 200 million gallons of sewage contaminated the California coast after a winter storm damaged sewer infrastructure in Mexico (“Two countries, one border and their shared pollution,” 12/06/18). “The U.S. has a responsibility to actually capture and treat that water,” said Matt Edling, a lawyer for the cities involved in the lawsuit at the time.

In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had created a $630 million plan to address this long-standing cross-border hazard, according to The San Diego Tribune. The proposed projects include expanding an existing wastewater treatment plant, diverting Tijuana River water to a new facility for treatment, and repairing leaky sewage infrastructure in Mexico, among other initiatives, according to an EPA press release. “I appreciate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s work throughout the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement process, which has further demonstrated the need for long-term, comprehensive investments,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in the news release. “This announcement today is welcome news that will move us even closer to solving this public health and environmental crisis.”

Jessica Kutz is an assistant editor for High Country News. We welcome reader letters. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy.

High Country News Classifieds