Danny Vinegrad leads community protestors in a chant during a Stop the Sewage rally on Sept 1, 2023 in Coronado, Calif. Staff photo by Sofie Fransen.

“‘What do we want? Stop the sewage! When do we want it? Now!’” are the words one teen led in a chant at a second rally protesting sewage in the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 1.

“We just had a protest…and we’re gonna do more protests in the future,” Danny Vinegrad told The Coronado News during a phone interview in September. “We’ll write letters to government officials…try and reach out to Gov. Newsom. I’d definitely like to reach out to anybody who could offer their hand.”

Danny and his sister, Eva, have shared their hope of bringing more attention to the sewage issue among their peers with a new Coronado High School Stop the Sewage Club.

The goal, they say, is to help fast-track additional funding efforts to solve a crisis that has existed nearly 100 years.

Sewage contaminating waves

As an avid surfer, 14-year-old Danny Vinegrad said residents and visitors cannot enjoy the beach in Coronado because of sewage-contaminated waves from discharge coming from Tijuana that also pose health risks.

I would surf every day like a couple years ago and the problem has just been getting worse and worse.”

-Danny Vinegrad.

“I would surf every day like a couple years ago and the problem has just been getting worse and worse,” he said.

Vinegrad said he was inspired to start the school club after he learned about the efforts to raise community awareness from a May 27 “Stop the Sewage” rally and then doing research about what others were doing.

Laura Wilkinson Sinton, Susan Finley Marrinan, Marely Ramirez, Jean Seager, and Stephanie Kaupp co-founded StopTheSewage.org in Coronado.

The bipartisan group has worked in collaboration with groups like Emerald Keepers and Surfrider Foundation to demand “immediate action to clean up our beaches for humans and all living creatures,” according to their website and media reports.

More than 50 interested members

This community pressure follows The Coronado News earlier this year publishing 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, the newspaper found.

After emailing Stop the Sewage.org about his interest in starting a club, Vinegrad said he was able to begin the high school group with a small number of friends who also met over the summer to prepare for the protests.

Now the club has recruited “a ton of support” with more than 50 interested members following a recruitment event this fall to bring more voices to the issue, added the Coronado High School sophomore.

Stop the Sewage Club recruits new student members during club rush in the CHS quad in mid-September. It’s among the 64 student-run approved clubs on campus for the 2023-24 school year. Photo courtesy of Danny Vinegrad.

“In the next couple weeks, that’s when we’re gonna have a first meeting,” said Danny Vinegrad about formalizing his school club and working in collaboration with high school students in Imperial Beach. “The club’s about to go in full swing.”

Danny Vinegrad promotes CHS Stop the Sewage Club during a lunchtime club rush event. Photo courtesy of Vinegrad.

Sibling duo

Vinegrad finds himself hopeful about gaining a lot of support on the issue and will be doing so with the support of Stop the Sewage.org, teacher advisor Abbie Hartge, and his sister, Eva, who also attends CHS.

Side by side, the siblings will work to restore the beach community they have known from a young age, they said.

“I’ve spent my whole life going to the beach watching my friends, watching Danny surf and I feel like losing that just kind of loses a part of the community and what it means to live here in Coronado,” said Eva Vinegrad, who is 16 and will serve as club vice president.

It’s really a non-partisan issue that really affects anybody living along the coast.

-Eva Vinegrad.

“I’m actually really honored to be taking on this role,” added the CHS junior. “It’s really a non-partisan issue that really affects anybody living along the coast.”

The Vinegrads will remain involved in other extracurricular activities at school like Junior Optimist and Emerald Keepers, but they said they will lead at the forefront to get Newsom and other leading figures in the state and community to take action to stop the sewage crisis.

“Along the coast, Coronado down to IB and into parts of Mexico, everyone just needs clean water to swim in and so it’s not even in our air that we breathe,” said Danny Vinegrad.

To learn more about CHS Stop the Sewage club and their community service efforts, visit their Instagram page, @chsstopthesewage.

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Julieta is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering education, small business and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied English, Spanish, and Journalism. Apart from reporting, Julieta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending quality time with family and friends.