South Bay leaders demand immediate action on Tijuana River Valley pollution

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Unified in their response to the escalating environmental, public health, and economic crisis in the Tijuana River Valley, South Bay leaders are urgently requesting the State of California to declare a State of Emergency and for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to step in. This intervention aims to monitor and assess the health of residents in affected communities, as the situation grows increasingly dire.

During a press conference on June 4, 2024, key regional figures including Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre, Port of San Diego Vice Chair Danielle Moore, and Coronado Councilman John Duncan made a compelling appeal for both state and federal government action. They highlighted the severe impacts of pollution on communities such as Imperial Beach, Nestor, San Ysidro, and Otay Mesa West.

Mayor Aguirre emphasized the urgent need for governmental intervention, stating, “The State can wield its powers to attack this triple threat. We need immediate action to accelerate the diversion and treatment of the Tijuana River waters—currently a major pollution source affecting our communities.” She pointed out the lack of environmental review and funding, which significantly delays potential relief efforts, estimated to be five to ten years away without emergency measures.

Vice Chair Danielle Moore voiced concerns about the ongoing contamination from sewage flows, describing the severe implications for local health, jobs, and the economy. “The stakes are high, and the continuation of this crisis is unacceptable. Immediate and decisive action is required to safeguard the well-being of our communities,” she remarked.

Lauren Cazares of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce urged Governor Newsom to request Epidemic Aid from the CDC to address the health risks posed by the pollution properly. This request comes as the region faces over 900 days of beach closures and significant economic losses due to ongoing environmental issues.

The pollution crisis, fueled by more than 100 billion gallons of untreated sewage and contaminants flowing into the Pacific Ocean, has prompted calls for better infrastructure and faster response times. Mexico is updating the Punta Bandera Treatment Plant in Tijuana, and the U.S. has funded repairs to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP). However, comprehensive solutions and enhanced federal engagement are crucial for resolving the ongoing disaster.

With an emergency declaration, California’s various state agencies could better collaborate with federal entities to address this pressing issue, bringing much-needed relief and accountability to the region’s ongoing environmental and health crisis.

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