California Announces Intent to Sue Federal Government for Failure to Contain Cross-Border Pollution at the Tijuana River Valley

Senator Hueso led push for State action to address continual flow of raw sewage and wastewater from Tijuana to San Diego County
May 14, 2018

San Diego, CA – May 14, 2018 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that the State has issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue the US Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) for violations of the Clean Water Act. The decision comes after Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) called upon the Governor and Attorney General to enter into a lawsuit against the USIBWC for its failure to adequately address cross-border pollution at the Tijuana River Valley.

“For three decades, the State of California has tried repeatedly to resolve these issues with the USIBWC outside of the courtroom to no avail,” said Senator Hueso. “We as a State need to enforce water quality standards to ensure the health and safety of residents in San Diego County are made a priority at the federal level, and I thank the Attorney General for his support for our requests.”

In March, Senator Hueso introduced Senate Joint Resolution No. 22, which urged the federal government and the USIBWC to take immediate action to adequately address the flow of raw sewage and wastewater that continually pours over the border from Tijuana into San Diego County, and requested that the State of California join various entities in the County of San Diego in initiating a lawsuit over matters within the State’s jurisdiction.

In April, a coalition of San Diego legislators wrote to Governor Brown imploring him to use every resource within the State of California to protect San Diego’s coastline and residents from ongoing environmental damage and threats to public health. This letter was followed by a May 8 letter from Senator Hueso to the Attorney General, wherein he asked for for his support for this request to the Governor.

“For far too long, uncontrolled sewage spills have polluted and impaired the Tijuana River Valley and Pacific Ocean. This must stop,” said California Attorney General Becerra in his announcement. “It’s our duty to protect the public health and natural resources of the people of California. We will do what is necessary to get those responsible to clean up this mess.”

Following the introduction of Senator Hueso’s SJR 22, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board voted in March to authorize taking the first step toward filing a lawsuit against the federal government to stem the cross-border flow of contaminated water into the Tijuana River Valley. The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, and the Port of San Diego had also previously expressed intentions to sue the IBWC for its failure to act on this critical public health and environmental issue.

“The federal government’s ineffectiveness cannot be tolerated for another 30 years,” said Senator Hueso. “Joining regional efforts by our municipal, port and county counterparts will give us the leverage and strength to demand immediate action.”

February 2017 had one of the largest raw sewage spills, with more than 140 million gallons flowing into the Tijuana River Valley and Estuary. Every month thereafter, the spills have recurred, causing property values to plummet and tourism to dwindle. However, worst and most importantly of all, the dangerous contaminants are a threat to human life and wildlife alike.