San Diego, Calif., July 17, 2018 – The Surfrider Foundation announced that today it will file a citizen suit against the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC). The lawsuit is based on the USIBWC’s failure to comply with water quality standards, in addition to critical monitoring and reporting requirements in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The Surfrider Foundation, which has been an active stakeholder on the border sewage issue for over a decade, sent the USIBWC a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue (NOI) on May 15, 2018. The USIBWC did not respond to the NOI or Surfrider’s position that the USIBWC’smismanagement and inaction on trans-boundary contamination has resulted in beach closures, the reported human illnesses of residents and Border Patrol agents, negative implications for local businesses and the contamination of the Pacific Ocean.
“The Surfrider Foundation has followed the established procedure for making public and officialits complaints that USIBWC is in violation of the federal laws governing local water quality standards, including giving them an opportunity to respond and offer ways to mitigate theproblem,” said Daniel Foster, partner with the international law firm representing the Surfrider Foundation, McDermott Will & Emery. “Because of USIBWC’s continued inaction on this issueand the resulting impact on local communities, Surfrider has decided to take further action on
behalf of its members and supporters in Southern California.”
Trans-boundary border sewage flows, unknown chemical pollutants and an increase in plastic debris traveling through the Tijuana River Valley have plagued South San Diego County for
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decades. In February 2017, failures of the Mexican sewage infrastructure caused an estimated 143 -240 million gallons of raw sewage to travel through the Tijuana River Valley and onto local beaches. This event affected hundreds of Imperial Beach and Coronado residents who have been forced to live with contamination affecting their homes, neighborhoods, favorite beaches and open spaces. To date, no long-term solutions have been proposed to remedy the sewage problem on the U.S. side of the border. There also haven’t been any attempts to remediate the area that was affected in February 2017.
When Imperial Beach resident and co-founder of the South Bay Clean Water Movement, Shannon Johnson, was asked about the lawsuit, she stated that The Surfrider Foundation has consistently played an active role on the border sewage issue, most recently opposing the construction of a campground in the Tijuana River Valley until the sewage issue is addressed and the area cleaned.
The USIBWC is a federal government agency with the mission of providing solutions regarding sanitation and water quality in the border region. The USIBWC has failed to achieve their mandate and has continually allowed flows of untreated raw sewage, chemical pollutants or plastic pollution to enter the Tijuana River Valley. The community has waited for solutions to this increasingly dangerous problem and the Surfrider Foundation is now suing to compel the USIBWC to act.