FILE: Sewage water from Mexico being treated at the International Wastewater Treatment Plant earlier this year. Congressional leaders want answers as to why the plant has failed to properly work this year. Photo by Madeline Yang.

Forty nonprofit organizations across San Diego County sent a letter July 14 to Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden urging swift action on the toxic transboundary pollution following through the Tijuana River Watershed and into the Pacific Ocean.

The letter echoes the request for a federal emergency declaration first made by Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre on June 6, that has since been supported by all other 17 Mayors of San Diego County, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, members of the CA Legislative Delegation, and the San Diego Congressional Delegation. 

The letters come after The Coronado News earlier this year published a five-part series that examined the decades of broken promises by U.S. and Mexican officials that have resulted in a polluted ocean and shuttered beaches in Coronado and Imperial Beach. Further, the public health crisis continues to cause widespread illnesses on both sides of the border including U.S. Border Patrol Agents and Navy SEALS.

Expedite access to federal funds

If declared, a State of Emergency could expedite access to federal resources for repairing, expanding, and building new infrastructure to significantly decrease the flow of toxic transboundary pollution, reducing the number of beach closures throughout South San Diego County each year and protecting the health of people and ecosystems. 

Participating nonprofit organizations represent coastal residents, workers, activists, and recreators and advocate for and with children, youth, and their families throughout the County.

Many of the signees convened for a roundtable conversation on June 28 at YMCA’s Camp Surf to discuss impacts of the toxic pollution on their programs, which have had to be relocated or canceled due to unsafe water quality and beach closures. 

“We believe all residents, especially children and youth, should have repeated, meaningful, safe access to the outdoors to help improve physical and mental health outcomes, promote self-confidence in new experiences, and foster a love and understanding for the environment,” the group said in a statement.

Signatories call for environmental justice

The letter urgently appeals to the State of California and the U.S. Federal Government to fulfill their commitments to support Environmental Justice communities and take decisive action to address the ongoing pollution crisis in the Tijuana River.

Signatories include: 4 Walls International, A Reason To Survive (ARTS), Blue Dot Education, California Mountain Biking Coalition,, Climate Action Campaign, Coastal Roots Farm, Earth Discovery Institute, Emerald Keepers, Environmental Center of San Diego, Friends of Friendship Park, Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek, Hispanic Access Foundation, Latino Outdoors San Diego, Ocean Discovery Institute, Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, Outdoor Outreach, Paddle for Peace, Project Kolika, Rescue Agency, San Diego Audubon Society, San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego for Every Child, San Diego Green Infrastructure Consortium, San Diego Mountain Biking Association, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, SanDiego350, Sierra Service Project, Spirit Runners, Sprockids San Diego, Coronado, Surfrider Foundation, The Escondido Creek Conservancy, The Trauma Foundation, Un Mar De Colores, Urban Surf 4 Kids, WILDCOAST, YMCA of San Diego County, and Youth Will. 

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