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Bill Aimed at Addressing Pollution Along U.S.-Mexico Border

If Passes, EPA to Lead Project

“Sewage discharge in the Tijuana River Valley has been a decades-long public health and environmental catastrophe for San Diegans and those in Coronado. One of the largest barriers we face in fixing the problem is that everyone points to someone else when decisions need to be made,” says Rep. Scott Peters. A new bill has now been proposed to put the EPA in charge of addressing the pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pollution problems

For decades, trash and sewage from the Tijuana River has damaged natural habitats and closed beaches as the polluted waters dump into the Pacific Ocean. Studies show contaminated water runs into the ocean 138 days out of the year and worsens during rainstorms.

Sewage pollution within the Tijuana River Watershed travels from the west side of Mexico and poses a significant public health risk to communities on both sides of the border-straddling waterway as well as to all the people who enjoy the Southern U.S. coastline.

Even though the water ends up in California, the challenge has been a lack of U.S. jurisdiction in Mexico, and no one keeping track of the river’s contents on a regular basis.

New legislation

The Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of California lawmakers: Reps. Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs and Darrell Issa, representing San Diego County’s five congressional districts, as well as Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district covers the Coachella Valley.

“Addressing cross-border pollution in our region requires strong communication between agencies from both sides of the border,” said Vargas.

If approved, it would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency coordinating federal, state and local agencies’ efforts to build and maintain infrastructure projects aimed at reducing pollution along the border. The bill is companion legislation to another bill introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, which also seeks to improve water quality in the Tijuana and New rivers.

“The people of Southern California have been forced to suffer while different federal agencies keep passing the buck,” said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “This bill will put an end to the confusion by putting the EPA in charge of coordinating efforts and fixing the problem, this long-standing issue that must be addressed now.”

If this legislation passes, the next step would be to start the cleanup projects environmental and advocacy groups such as WILDCOAST, Surfrider Foundation, and others have been anxious to see for some time.

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