Cross Border Water Pollution

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Why Ocean Waters in the South Bay Are Intermittently Closed

Many parts of Tijuana’s wastewater infrastructure are decades old, have inadequate capacity to treat and convey wastewater and suffer from repeated breaks and system failures. During and after significant rain events and wastewater system breaks in Mexico, untreated water can flow northward carrying contaminants into U.S. waters off San Diego.

From late December 2022 through May 2023, unusually heavy and frequent rain events created significant flows down the Tijuana River that propelled much higher-than-normal volumes of contaminants into the ocean environment. This resulted in greater number of ocean closures, warnings and advisories from Imperial Beach to Coronado than is typically experienced this time of year. As of late May 2023, Tijuana River flows have returned to a seasonal normal of zero to low flows. This will allow the reconstruction of pollution-preventing measures such as a sediment berm in the river channel.

In May of 2022, San Diego County also introduced a first-in-the-nation ocean water quality testing protocol which has yielded more closures than under prior testing protocols. On Coronado, water samples are taken daily. When samples approach or exceed the test’s threshold, an ocean advisory, warning or closure is designated, and signs are posted on the beach. San Diego County water quality results are published online as conditions change and are available on the San Diego County Beach & Bay Water Quality website, along with information on the ocean advisory, warning and closure levels.


Coronado's Plan for Addressing Water Pollution Coming From Mexico

The City of Coronado has been tirelessly advocating for wastewater treatment solutions since 2016, along with other regional partners. As a result, in 2022 the federal government allocated $330 million to mitigate the problem, with the Mexican government contributing another $144 million.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) have planned several projects in San Diego and Tijuana to address cross border water pollution which include:

  1. expanding the capacity of the existing sewage treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border;
  2. replacing the San Antonio de las Buenas treatment plant that discharges untreated sewage at Punta Bandera in Mexico;
  3. building an additional treatment plant on the US side of the border to treat river flows;
  4. installing a trash boom in the river on the US side of the border; and
  5. additional repairs to the sewage collection system in Mexico.

These projects will help improve water quality for our local communities but will take time to design and construct.


Timeline for Current Improvements

With this funding, projects are expected to be completed and operational by the end of 2027 that would result in a 50% reduction in the number of days of transboundary wastewater flow in the Tijuana River and an 80% reduction in the volume of untreated wastewater discharged to the Pacific Ocean six miles south of the border.

• July 2023 – IBWC producing estimates for work and releasing bids, with contracts in place by fall.

• Early 2024 – IBWC designs complete and construction breaks ground on infrastructure improvements.

• Mexico has not yet released timelines for construction using their allocated funding.

For a map of the related infrastructure improvements, please visit the EPA’s website.


Next Steps to Make Sure Our Local Waters are Open for Recreation:

The City of Coronado continues collaboration at the local, state and federal levels to protect our water resources. While much has been done to dedicate necessary resources, ongoing attention and advocacy is needed to ensure these projects advance and complete as quickly as possible. It is estimated that an additional $300 million beyond the currently allocated $470 million is needed to fund all of the infrastructure improvements on both sides of the border.

On April 3, 2023 the Coronado City Council voted to create dedicated Council Subcommittee on Cross Border Water Pollution to continue to the City’s focus on legislative advocacy and aggressively pursuing solutions with regional partners. The City of Coronado encourages you to remain informed and sign up for e-updates online as more information becomes available on funding and the status of projects here.


How to Support Collaborative Efforts to Improve Water Quality in South Bay

If you would like to get involved, please reach out to the EPA Region 9 Office and your local U.S. Senator and Congressmember to voice your concerns. Encourage your representatives to continue to support additional funding for wastewater treatment facilities along the U.S./Mexico border and to support efforts to expedite the IBWC group of improvement projects that have already been funded and are underway.

Together, we can ensure clean water for all who use South County’s bays and beaches.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Why Ocean Waters in the South Bay Are Intermittently Closed

Many parts of Tijuana’s wastewater infrastructure are decades old, have inadequate capacity to treat and convey wastewater and suffer from repeated breaks and system failures. During and after significant rain events and wastewater system breaks in Mexico, untreated water can flow northward carrying contaminants into U.S. waters off San Diego.

From late December 2022 through May 2023, unusually heavy and frequent rain events created significant flows down the Tijuana River that propelled much higher-than-normal volumes of contaminants into the ocean environment. This resulted in greater number of ocean closures, warnings and advisories from Imperial Beach to Coronado than is typically experienced this time of year. As of late May 2023, Tijuana River flows have returned to a seasonal normal of zero to low flows. This will allow the reconstruction of pollution-preventing measures such as a sediment berm in the river channel.

In May of 2022, San Diego County also introduced a first-in-the-nation ocean water quality testing protocol which has yielded more closures than under prior testing protocols. On Coronado, water samples are taken daily. When samples approach or exceed the test’s threshold, an ocean advisory, warning or closure is designated, and signs are posted on the beach. San Diego County water quality results are published online as conditions change and are available on the San Diego County Beach & Bay Water Quality website, along with information on the ocean advisory, warning and closure levels.


Coronado's Plan for Addressing Water Pollution Coming From Mexico

The City of Coronado has been tirelessly advocating for wastewater treatment solutions since 2016, along with other regional partners. As a result, in 2022 the federal government allocated $330 million to mitigate the problem, with the Mexican government contributing another $144 million.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) have planned several projects in San Diego and Tijuana to address cross border water pollution which include:

  1. expanding the capacity of the existing sewage treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border;
  2. replacing the San Antonio de las Buenas treatment plant that discharges untreated sewage at Punta Bandera in Mexico;
  3. building an additional treatment plant on the US side of the border to treat river flows;
  4. installing a trash boom in the river on the US side of the border; and
  5. additional repairs to the sewage collection system in Mexico.

These projects will help improve water quality for our local communities but will take time to design and construct.


Timeline for Current Improvements

With this funding, projects are expected to be completed and operational by the end of 2027 that would result in a 50% reduction in the number of days of transboundary wastewater flow in the Tijuana River and an 80% reduction in the volume of untreated wastewater discharged to the Pacific Ocean six miles south of the border.

• July 2023 – IBWC producing estimates for work and releasing bids, with contracts in place by fall.

• Early 2024 – IBWC designs complete and construction breaks ground on infrastructure improvements.

• Mexico has not yet released timelines for construction using their allocated funding.

For a map of the related infrastructure improvements, please visit the EPA’s website.


Next Steps to Make Sure Our Local Waters are Open for Recreation:

The City of Coronado continues collaboration at the local, state and federal levels to protect our water resources. While much has been done to dedicate necessary resources, ongoing attention and advocacy is needed to ensure these projects advance and complete as quickly as possible. It is estimated that an additional $300 million beyond the currently allocated $470 million is needed to fund all of the infrastructure improvements on both sides of the border.

On April 3, 2023 the Coronado City Council voted to create dedicated Council Subcommittee on Cross Border Water Pollution to continue to the City’s focus on legislative advocacy and aggressively pursuing solutions with regional partners. The City of Coronado encourages you to remain informed and sign up for e-updates online as more information becomes available on funding and the status of projects here.


How to Support Collaborative Efforts to Improve Water Quality in South Bay

If you would like to get involved, please reach out to the EPA Region 9 Office and your local U.S. Senator and Congressmember to voice your concerns. Encourage your representatives to continue to support additional funding for wastewater treatment facilities along the U.S./Mexico border and to support efforts to expedite the IBWC group of improvement projects that have already been funded and are underway.

Together, we can ensure clean water for all who use South County’s bays and beaches.

  • Governor Newsom Reiterates Strong Support for $310M inclusion in Supplemental Appropriations Bill or Final FY 2024 Budget

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    On January 29, 2024 Governor Newsom reiterated his strong support for inclusion of $310 million in the federal emergency supplemental appropriations bill or final FY 2024 budget appropriations package to address the Tijuana River sewage crisis. The funds are needed to repair long-neglected infrastructure at the South Bay International Wastewater Plant.


    >> Governor Newsom to Congress: Act Now on Tijuana River Crisis, January 29, 2024

  • San Diego Congressional Delegation Asking US Dept of Navy to Release Data

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    Members of San Diego’s congressional delegation are asking the U.S. Dept. of the Navy to release data that may reveal the true effects the Tijuana sewage crisis has had on Naval operations. On January 23, 2024, Representatives Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, Sara Jacobs, Darrell Issa and Mike Levin wrote a letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro requesting statistics for 2022 and 2023. The letter to Secretary Del Toro can be found here.

  • Governor Newsom Sent Letter to Congress Affirming Critical Importance of Federal Funding

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    Jan 29, 2024 - Governor Newsom sent a letter to Congress affirming the critical importance of federal funding to solve the ongoing crisis in the Tijuana River Valley. The Governor reiterated that Congress must approve the $310 million that President Biden included in his emergency supplemental appropriations bill to address contamination in the cross-border river.


  • Groundbreaking Ceremony on San Antonio de los Buenos Treatment plant

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    The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) reported on January 11, 2024 the groundbreaking ceremony held for the project to design, construction, and rehabilitation of the San Antonio de los Buenos (SAB) Treatment plant located south of Tijuana, Mexico. The groundbreaking ceremony included the participation of US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar and Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Avila Olmeda.

    The project is fully funded by Mexico at a cost of $37M USD and will include the rehabilitation of the existing SAB Treatment Plant as well as wastewater treatment upgrades. Completion of the project is scheduled for September 2024. The rehabilitated SAB Treatment Plant will treat 18 million gallons per day which will reduce the volume of untreated wastewater discharged into the ocean at SAB.

  • SBIWTP Rehab & Expansion Progressive Design-Build Solicitation Posted

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    The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico (USIBWC) has posted the solicitation for the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) Rehabilitation and Expansion Progressive Design-Build on SAM.gov. Bids are due by February 8, 2024


    More details:

    https://www.ibwc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/SBIWTP-Rehab-Exp-Solicitation_Final.pdf

  • National League of Cities Resolution to Increase Funding for Border Water Infrastructure Projects

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    During their annual Business Meeting on November 18, 2023, in Atlanta Georgia, the National League of Cities issued a resolution to Increase funding for border water infrastructure projects.

  • President Includes $310 Million Emergency Request Led by Rep. Peters to Fix International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Supplemental Funding Ask

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    October 25, 2023 Washington D.C. – Today, Representative Scott Peters (CA-50) applauded President Biden’s inclusion of $310 million to fix and expand the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant in his emergency supplemental funding request. The project is desperately needed to tackle dangerous cross-border wastewater pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. Last month, Rep. Peters led a request to congressional leaders for this same funding. The President’s request throws the administration’s support behind Rep. Peters’ work and makes it more likely that these funds are included in any final funding package approved by Congress.

    “San Diegans have called on the federal government to put an end to this crisis for years. Today, thanks to their overwhelming advocacy and dedicated work from elected officials at every level of government, the President has responded to our pleas for help,” said Rep. Peters.

    He continued, “Make no mistake, this is not a ‘mission accomplished’ moment. This funding will need to be approved by both chambers of Congress, which remains an uphill battle, and I am already working to ensure we have the votes to get it across the finish line. I know our Senators are also working to convince their colleagues and I urge them to please not ease up on their advocacy.”

    Read full press release

  • EPA, in partnership with U.S. Section the USIBWC and Mexico, continues to address urgent transboundary pollution issues

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    The EPA, in partnership with the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) and Mexico, continues to address the urgent transboundary pollution issues in the San Diego/Tijuana region. Below is an interim update on specific progress made since our May 2023 Eligible Public Entities Coordinating Group (EPECG) and public information meetings:


    • Mexico has completed the rehabilitation of the Oriente Collector, completed 20% construction of the new International Collector, and will complete by December 2023 installation of the pressurized lines carrying wastewater and river water to the coast. Mexico will also soon begin repairs of Pump Station 1. Combined, these projects in Tijuana will help prevent future spills of up to 58 million gallons per day (mgd) from entering the U.S. Finally, Mexico plans to issue a solicitation for bids on the design and construction of a new 18 mgd wastewater treatment plant at San Antonio De Los Buenos in late 2023. Mexico expects to complete construction in two years.

    • USIBWC recently announced immediate repairs (Junction Box 1 replacement, primary sedimentation tank cleaning and rehabilitation, and influent pumps rehabilitation) to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP). Over the next 9-12 months these repairs will substantially improve compliance with the discharge permit. Incremental water quality improvement is expected to be seen much earlier.

    • With respect to the USMCA project to expand the SBIWTP, as discussed previously, the full project costs (for expansion from 25 mgd to 50 mgd with a peaking factor and anaerobic digesters) have substantially increased from the original estimate of $300 million, largely due to a more thorough cost analysis performed during the pre-construction phase, in addition to unanticipated costs associated with rehabilitating the plant prior to expansion, inflation, market conditions, and labor shortages.


    Because the updated cost estimates greatly exceed the available funding, EPA and USIBWC will proceed with a phased approach for the expansion of the SBIWTP to a 50 mgd plant with a peak capacity[1] of 75 mgd (allowing the plant to treat peaks in volume of water entering the plant). Anaerobic digestion is not included. Although the estimated cost for this project exceeds available USMCA funding by $310 million +/- 30%, EPA and USIBWC will proceed with a phased construction approach commensurate with available funding. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein called upon Senate leadership to include $310 million in the upcoming emergency supplemental bill to allow complete up-front funding for the expansion of the plant, which would allow for a much faster project completion. However, these additional funds are not secured at this time.


    Nevertheless, USIBWC will issue a pre-solicitation notice in mid-October and solicit bids for this phased project in late fall 2023. Once selected, the design and construction contractors will develop an updated project schedule, which we will share with you. It’s important to note that the proposed SBIWTP expansion, in combination with the wastewater improvements in Mexico, will result in the elimination of approximately 90% of untreated flows entering the Pacific Ocean.

    [1] Without a peaking factor, the SBIWTP will not be able to handle the larger flows that are common during storm events, when stormwater infiltrates into the sewer system. As an example, with a peak capacity of 75 mgd, the SBIWTP would have been able to handle flows received during recent Tropical Storm Hilary.


  • IBWC July 12 Citizen Forum Meeting Presentations

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    The USIBWC Citizens Forum (CF) was established in 2002 to facilitate the exchange of information between the USIBWC and members of the public about Commission activities in San Diego County. The CF is intended to bring together community members enabling the early and continued two-way flow of information, concerns, values, and needs between the USIBWC and the general public, environmentalists, government agencies, municipalities, and other interested parties.

    July 12, 2023 Meeting Presentations:
    San Diego Update Presentation – Morgan Rogers
    Tijuana River Channel Trash Booms Project

  • County Board of Supervisors Request for Emergency Declaration

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    At its June 27, 2023 meeting, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to declare a County-wide state of emergency for the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Pollution Environmental Crisis and a request for a Federal State of Emergency. The goal is to expedite funding and construction of projects.

    As the goal of the Board item is consistent with the Coronado City Council's goals for full appropriation of funding and accelerated completion of the projects, the City of Coronado submitted a letter of support for the item.

Page last updated: 05 Feb 2024, 02:55 PM