Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre stands with Coronado and Imperial Beach residents at a Sept. 1 "Stop the Sewage" rally. She and 17 other mayors have demanded Gov. Gavin Newsom declare a state of emergency. Staff photo by Sofie Fransen.

The mayors of every single city in San Diego County have sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for him to  declare a state of emergency regarding the  Tijuana sewage crisis. 

The Republican and Democrat city leaders on Sept. 14 requested immediate action to safeguard their environments and the health and well-being of the communities being affected by this catastrophe.

The letter calls for Newsom – who has called upon President Biden to help address the crisis – to immediately issue a state of emergency and implement unrestricted use of the state’s enforcement authority to compel federal action, draw down federal funding, and show solidarity with the 18 cities calling for a state of emergency.

Governor declines to respond

The Coronado News reached out for comment from the governor’s office but did not receive a response.

Beaches in south San Diego have been closed for 645 consecutive days as of Sept. 14, and Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre said that “recent studies show alarmingly high levels of coastal pollution impacting air quality.” 

File photo. Caution signs at Coronado Beach warning residents of the polluted ocean. Photo by Madeline Yang.

Not only is sewage flowing into the oceans of San Diego where residents take a risk every time they swim or surf, this issue is affecting the air they breathe, she said.

The demand comes after one key federal official said at least $300 million more is needed to fix the aging South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant near the U.S.-Mexico border. 

And, The pressure for change comes after The Coronado News earlier this year published a five-part series that examined decades of broken promises by U.S. and Mexican officials to end the continual sewage flow from rapidly growing Tijuana.  Further, the public health crisis continues to cause widespread illnesses on both sides of the border, including sickening U.S. Border Patrol Agents and Navy SEALS, The Coronado News found.

We have grave concerns that not only pathogens are in the air, but also industrial chemicals and other harmful pollutants. We need to immediately stop the flow of toxic sewage into our communities.”

-Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre.

“We have grave concerns that not only pathogens are in the air, but also industrial chemicals and other harmful pollutants. We need to immediately stop the flow of toxic sewage into our communities, and we need state and federal assistance to do that.” said Aguirre. 

An estimated 6 million people visit the south San Diego coast annually, and the 14-mile stretch of coast impacted the most by the sewage crisis includes Imperial Beach and Coronado, Border Field and Silver Strand State Beaches, the mayors said. 

Sewage crisis affecting economies

Not only does the effluvium impact the local communities, it’s believed to have severe economic impacts due to the tourist-dependent nature of the area.

Impacts to the real estate market, hospitality industry, recreational programs, and local businesses are unknown, but estimates are in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a news release from Imperial Beach. 

“Every day this crisis continues shows a callous disregard for the health and safety of the environment and all impacted residents, visitors, and workers,” Aguirre said.

More News

Madeline Yang is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering the City of Coronado, the U.S Navy and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with her Bachelors in Journalism with an emphasis in Visual Storytelling. She loves writing, photography and videography and one day hopes to be a filmmaker. She can be reached by phone at 916-835-5843.