San Diego County Approves Tijuana River Sewage Data Collection

San Diego County Approves Tijuana River Sewage Data Collection

Aerial view of the Tijuana River crossing the Mexico-U.S. border as seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 14, 2020. (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images)

City News Service
City News Service

6/27/2024

Updated: 6/27/2024

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SAN DIEGO—The San Diego County Board of Supervisors June 25 unanimously approved a policy for the county Health and Human Services Agency to examine health impacts of the Tijuana River sewage crisis on South Bay residents.
As proposed by board Chairwoman Nora Vargas and Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer, the policy will direct county staff to begin meeting with a dedicated task force within 45 days and to develop coordinated strategies for mobilization, which include:
  • launching a community health survey examining health impacts beyond direct water exposure;
  • development of a Tijuana River Public Health Risk Dashboard;
  • development of local decontamination protocols for sewage contaminated flood waters;
  • requesting ZIP-code level data from the California Breathing Program;
  • enhanced interagency communication, including with the San Diego Regional Water Control Board, Air Pollution Control District, California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; and
  • pursuing additional funding to assess the impacts of the sewage crisis.
“Our county has been leading the fight in partnership with our local cities to clean up the Tijuana River sewage crisis, and this policy will empower our health experts to make more health data available and expand the way we respond to health threats,” Ms. Lawson-Remer said previously.
Ms. Vargas said after Tuesday vote that after decades of neglect, “our underinvested communities in South County are bearing the brunt of the Tijuana River sewage crisis.”
“Since taking office, I have been actively advocating for federal funding and resources to address this urgent issue,” Ms. Vargas added. “With the actions outlined in this legislation, including the launch of a Community Health Survey and the development of a Public Health Risk Dashboard, we are mobilizing to protect our families and ensure they have the clean water and air they deserve.”
Ms. Vargas’ office said the region is facing significant challenges, including over 900 consecutive days of beach closures due to sewage contamination.
“This situation poses serious health risks to local families, small businesses, lifeguards, U.S. Navy personnel, first responders and border patrol agents,” Ms. Vargas said.
Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre described how aerosolized bacteria, along with flooding of polluted waters, were leading to illness and long-term health impacts.
“We are seeing increased reports of respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal issues, asthma, nausea, and headaches,” she said. “Given the extensive pollution flowing through the Tijuana River Valley, it is critical that we fully understand the emerging public health impacts this pollution is having on South Bay communities.
“This policy will help us better understand the emerging public health threats caused by this emergency and, hopefully, accelerate broader and more substantive support from our governor and president to take action that is on par with the severity of this crisis,” Ms. Aguirre added.
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