NBC7: Biden’s emergency funding request includes $310M to treat Tijuana pollution

By Staff

Local and state elected officials Thursday thanked President Biden and others for requesting $310 million to expand wastewater treatment in the South Bay as part of an ongoing effort to tackle cross-border pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.

The funding is part of an emergency supplemental funding request.

“The inclusion of $310 million to address the sewage crisis in the president’s emergency supplemental request marks a significant step forward in tackling this crisis,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas. “It is essential that we continue taking action at every level of government to achieve our collective mission to protect our environment, communities, and the future of San Diego County.”

Earlier this week, the board advanced a $5 million cleanup project in the Tijuana River Valley to begin in early 2024, with a completion date before the end of March. The project would dredge drainage channels and build a basin for sediment and trash control in the Smuggler’s Gulch and Pilot channels.

The Smuggler’s Gulch channel enters the United States from Mexico and runs north until it crosses the Pilot Channel and flows into the Tijuana River and finally to the Pacific Ocean.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, offered a statement on the funding request.

“For far too long, toxic waste and raw sewage have flowed across the border, and Tropical Storm Hilary overwhelmed the system even further, pushing hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and wastewater into Southern California,” he said. “Contaminated water has impaired our military readiness and threatened the health of Navy SEALs, Customs and Border Protection agents, U.S. Coast Guardsmen, and millions of Southern Californians.”

County officials said that, since last December, “an alarming 35 billion gallons” have flowed north into U.S. territory from the sewage treatment plant in Punta Bandera, Mexico, impacting the San Diego coastline during the summer.

Earlier this month, the county Air Pollution Control District announced it was installing sensors in the valley, after residents reported odor from sewage spills into the river.

Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked the Biden administration and state leaders — including the late Sen. Diane Feinstein.

“My administration has worked closely with President Biden and his team on this issue, and I want to thank him for including the requested $310 million in the emergency supplemental bill,” Newsom said. “This funding will help expedite sorely needed construction.

“It’s critical that Congress act quickly to approve the president’s proposal and address this crisis.”

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