American Rivers
American Rivers

Stop Toxic Waste From Entering the Tijuana River

Tijuana River, CA | Courtesy of

The Tijuana River Watershed is the current and ancestral homeland of the Kumeyaay Nation and home to millions of people on both sides of the U.S./Mexico Border. The mouth of the Tijuana River empties into the Pacific Ocean through the Tijuana River Estuary, the largest freshwater estuary in southern California. Unfortunately, this beautiful place has been marred by industrial waste, raw sewage, and trash for over a century. 

Every day, failing wastewater infrastructure discharges millions of gallons of toxic waste into the Tijuana Watershed and out into the Pacific Ocean, sickening communities and destroying sensitive wildlife habitat. Ocean currents carry polluted water up the coast towards San Diego. In 2017 alone, researchers found that 34,000 illnesses were associated with sewage-tainted water in Imperial Beach, California, located just north of the U.S. - Mexico border. Recent studies report aerosolization of water pollution into the air, causing widespread respiratory illness in frontline communities. In the words of Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre, “an entire generation of children is growing up in South San Diego County having only experienced polluted beaches.” The toxic flows impair habitats, harm marine species, limit coastal access, jeopardize border security, and have detrimental effects on local economies and livelihoods. This is a grave public health crisis and one of the most significant environmental justice issues in the United States.  
While a Comprehensive Infrastructure Solution (CIS) has been vetted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other government and community stakeholders, another $700 million is needed to fully implement this plan. The CIS includes needed repairs and upgrades to wastewater infrastructure on both sides of the border.

We urge the President and Congress to fully fund this project immediately and end this national emergency!


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