SD Union-Tribune: Padilla visits border, urges action to clean trans-border pollution

By Staff

San Diego has suffered long enough from the effects of trans-border sewage flow, and sanitation efforts must move forward, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, said this week during a visit to a border wastewater treatment plant.

The U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission treatment plant sits on the border between Mexico and the United States in San Diego.

“For far too long, toxic waste and raw sewage have flowed across the border into Southern California, bringing health hazards and environmental threats into our own backyards,” Padilla said. “This pollution continues to contaminate Southern California’s air and water, depriving communities of outdoor recreation and economic opportunities.

“It is critical that we build on the federal investments we secured last year in order to implement a comprehensive, long-term solution to improve sewage treatment in both San Diego County and Tijuana,” he said.

Padilla was a key player in helping to eliminate red tape on more than $300 million from the EPA intended for the IBWC’s water infrastructure projects. That $300 million was already allocated in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to the IBWC, but was being held up, according to Padilla’s office.

“We are grateful for the senator’s attention to this plant and for his support on improving sanitation efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Maria-Elena Giner, the IBWC’s United States section commissioner. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration on obtaining the funding necessary to achieve the objective of reducing the transboundary flows for the benefit of the beaches and the surrounding communities.”

On Monday, Padilla received briefings from the EPA and IBWC on projects “aimed at reducing regional pollution.” and heard from community members regarding the flooding impacts any proposed Tijuana River border wall project would have on the region.

“Border communities share one watershed, and the solutions to reducing pollution in our shared environment require collaboration across all levels of government,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Today we discussed the critical role of ongoing maintenance required for success on both sides of the border, especially with the addition of the Customs and Border Patrol bridge and gate infrastructure.”

According to Padilla’s office, he has also worked to secure $3.45 million for the Smuggler’s Gulch Dredging Project in the county, which will “dredge Smuggler’s Gulch channel to clear trash and sediment and protect downstream properties, habitats, and communities as well as human and environmental health in the Tijuana River Watershed and coastal waters.”

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