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Surfrider Foundation to Sue the Feds over Unresolved Pollution

An undated photo of some of the pollution in the Tijuana River. Surfrider photo .

Per a press release on Tuesday, Surfrider Foundation has amplified their efforts to address a persistent toxic flow of sewage in the Tijuana River Valley. The San Diego chapter has resorted to potential litigation against the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) as a means to increase pressure on the federal government to act on what it calls "egregious violations of water quality regulations" set forth in the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Foundation announced it has sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue to the USIBWC in the hope it will spur immediate action on more than a decade's worth of water contamination in South San Diego County.

The pollution—estimated to be upward of millions of gallons of raw sewage—has seeped from the Tijuana River into U.S. waterways inflicting damage on the surrounding communities in recent decades, according to Surfrider. 

Previously, the grassroots organization has tried to mitigate the dilemma through the creation of the Tijuana River Action Network in 2010, community involvement, and public cleanups. Their efforts were heightened in February 2017 when 230 million gallons of river sewage was found flowing into the Pacific Ocean from the river. This incident affected the communities closest to the border, most notably Imperial Beach and Coronado.

The sewage spills have, according to Surfrider, tainted drinking water, closed beaches for recreation and threatened species near the border, but the Foundation claims the spills have been met with shocking inaction by the USIBWC.

“Because our activities have failed over the last year to result in any sort of tangible solution, we decided the next step is to file the intent to sue to pressure the commission and the federal government to remedy this problem,” Surfrider Foundation Policy Coordinator Gabriela Torres told KUSI News. “There has been a lead up to this. We take litigation seriously and only use it as a last resort, so we felt there was no other option.”

Their plan is to sue the USIBWC, under the banner of the Clean Water Act Section 505. This provision means citizens can address violations in standards set forth by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Surfrider argues that the USIBWC is guilty of disregarding their NPDES permit and claims that USIBWC has failed to monitor the growing situation.

“Right now there are a lot of interested parties trying to pressure the commission," said Torres. "We feel that us coming together with our own unique angles, but a unified voice, will lead us to find a solution."

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