Extreme water pollution threatens U.S.-Mexico border beaches

April 23, 2019 | Environment
U.S.-Mexico border beaches: discharged sewage is causing conjunctivitis, stomach infections, and ear infections | Photo: Surfrider

Around 20 million gallons of sewage per day are discharged into the Pacific Ocean, just five miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The "Clean Border Water Now" program is raising awareness for the need to eliminate the sewage, trash, sediment and chemical waste that plagues the beaches and waves in the border region and southern San Diego County.

The contamination problems are so severe and frequent that beaches around Imperial Beach were closed for roughly half of every year from 2015-2017.

Surfrider Foundation urges American and Mexican authorities to address the threat posed by the flow of untreated sewage, industrial pollution, and trash into the Tijuana River Watershed and the Pacific Ocean.

The environmental organization is advocating to fix and upgrade wastewater infrastructure, improve emergency response and increase water quality monitoring.

Surfrider volunteers have been collecting water samples weekly at ten beaches and surf spots from Imperial Beach to Tourmaline Surf Park in Pacific Beach.

The truth is that water quality conditions are not getting better in this border region - unfortunately, they continue to worsen.

Water pollution: around 20 million gallons of sewage per day are discharged into the Pacific Ocean near the U.S.-Mexico border

A Serious Public Health Situation

Surfrider filed a citizen suit against the International Boundary and Water Commission. The environmentalists require the agency to address their numerous violations and the harm that has impacted the local community.

"Here in the Laurel Canyon, you can see that many homes are not connected to city sewage infrastructure, and what's happening is the sewage is ending up in the canyon," explains Anna Lucia Avedoy, a Tijuana clean water activist.

"This is a serious public health situation because children are living in these areas. It smells very foul here, and they are constantly breathing in all of this fecal matter that is running through here. And all this water drains into the United States into Goat Canyon."

At Tijuana Beach, the ocean hides high water pollution levels.

"I've been sick from conjunctivitis, stomach infections, and ear infections. I've also heard that surfers and lifeguards have gotten sick for entering the water when it's been contaminated," adds Avedoy.

A few miles north, at Imperial Beach, the pollution issues are also problematic. And when it rains, surfers must stay out of the water.

"If I get in the water right now, I could get hepatitis, flesh-eating disease, staph infections and any sort of unknown viruses," notes actress and activist Mia Maestro.

"It's not about the border and building a wall between these two communities. It's about working together and finding a solution."

Take a look at 25 shocking facts about water pollution.

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