A Massive sewage spill in Tijuana that polluted beaches in San Diego County this month may have been no accident, according to state and local officials.
In a preliminary estimate, officials said about 143 million gallons of raw sewage spewed into the Tijuana River during a period of more than two weeks that ended Thursday. While cross-border sewage spills of a few million gallons are routine for the region, this is one of the largest such events in the last two decades, according to water quality experts in San Diego.
People from Tijuana to as far north as Coronado have been complaining of foul odors for weeks, prompting lawmakers in San Diego County to contact federal regulators as well as agencies in Mexico.
The U.S. regulators said their Mexican counterparts have given little explanation. Mexican officials also haven’t responded to requests for comment for this story since Monday.
“This was like a tsunami of sewage spills,” 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.
“What’s worse is it looks to me like this was deliberate,” he added. “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 toxic discharge is estimated to have happened from Feb. 6 through Thursday, while repairs were made to a major sewer pipe near the confluence of Mexico’s Alamar and Tijuana rivers, according to the U.S. side of the International Boundary and Water Commission. Baja California’s State Public Service Commission maintains the sewer-system infrastructure in that area.
“They basically said it was a bypass of raw sewage into the Tijuana River during the rehabilitation of a large sewer pipeline in Tijuana,” said Lori Kuczmanski, spokeswoman for the U.S. side of the commission, which oversees international water treaties with Mexico, among other things.