For 17 days in February, millions of gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Tijuana River in Baja California, then into the Pacific Ocean, contaminating beaches in southern San Diego County – and it looks like Mexican authorities intentionally allowed it to happen.
Officials estimate that over 143 million gallons of sewage were discharged into the river while repairs to a sewer pipe were underway.
“This was like a tsunami,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, who said he tried to get answers from officials on both sides of the border for more than a week with no response.
“It saves (the Mexican agencies) a lot of money in pumping costs, and ultimately, they can get away with it and do it all the time, just on a much smaller scale.”
The Mexican government did not warn US officials of the impending repairs, or that an ongoing spill occurred, until repeated inquiries by US officials. Residents along the coast complained of a foul odor for weeks, prompting those inquiries of the Mexican government.
Angry San Diego County residents packed a public hearing on the matter, telling officials about the harm already being caused to people on this side of the border:
Once residents had settled down, several elected officials spoke, including Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, who said she drove two hours to attend the meeting. As a former resident of South County, she said the issue was very important to her.
“My cousin surfed the Tijuana Sloughs and nearly lost his eye because bacteria crept into his optic nerve and nearly ate away at it, and also ate away at his skull and nearly got to his brain,” she told the crowd. “So what you’re talking about here has very large personal relevance to me.
So the Mexican officials, when faced with the conundrum of deciding how to deal with raw sewage during repairs, basically shrugged their shoulders and said, “Meh, send it downstream… let the Americans handle it”? Nice.
I think I speak for quite a few Californians when I say we are fed up with dealing with Mexico’s problems. Time to grow up and start adulting, Mexican government.