Senator Butler Visits South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, Reups Need For Federal Dollars For Maintenance

San Diego, California – Today, during a tour of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler (D-CA) viewed firsthand the impact of cross-border pollution in the Tijuana River Valley with Maria Elena Giner, Commissioner for the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Hector Aguirre, Assistant Director for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9, and Yana Garcia, Secretary for Environmental Protection for the California EPA.

During her visit, the Senator hosted a roundtable discussion with local officials in San Diego County to gain further insight into the impacts of sewage pollution on local communities and discuss what federal actions are needed to address the prevalence of pollution in the area. The local officials who participated in the roundtable included Toni Atkins, California Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus, Paloma Aguirre, Mayor of Imperial Beach, Nora Vargas, Chairwoman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, and Richard Bailey, Mayor of Coronado. Also in attendance were Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WILDCOAST, and representatives from the offices of Governor Gavin Newsom, Congressman Juan Vargas and Congressman Scott Peters.

“I needed to see the reality of what is happening at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant and the impact it is having on Californians,” said Senator Butler. “During the visit, it became clear to me that if we don’t act soon, San Diego and the whole region will continue to experience catastrophic impacts. I am committed to doing the work in Washington to secure the funding needed to ensure clean water for current and future generations in California.”

“For far too long, San Diego’s communities, beaches, businesses and residents have been impacted by sewage pouring into the Tijuana River Valley,” State Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni G. Atkins (D-39). “I applaud Senator Butler for engaging on this important issue and visiting this facility to see firsthand what our local communities have been dealing with on a daily basis. We will need federal, state and local partners to work together to develop innovative and timely solutions for this crisis.”

“We’re grateful for Senator Butler’s engagement and interest in this existential threat to the people of Imperial Beach and south San Diego,” said Mayor Aguirre. Our coastline has been closed for 820 consecutive days. These beach closures are devastating our local economy, and harming our community’s health and well-being. We look forward to working with the Senator to secure the $310 million requested by President Biden and the additional funding needed for diversion and treatment of the Tijuana River.”

“This is the single largest ongoing environmental disaster in our nation and it can only be solved with leadership from our representatives in Washington,” said Mayor Bailey. “I sincerely appreciate Senator Butler’s presence at the IBWC today and her continued advocacy to secure the funding and oversight necessary to clean up our South Bay beaches.”

“For decades, the beauty of the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park has been reduced to the transboundary pollution crisis and I want to express my gratitude to Senator Butler for creating conversation and elevating our regional efforts to solve the cross-border sewage pollution and mitigate its impact on ocean waters,” said Chairwoman Nora Vargas of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “It is essential that we continue taking action at every level of government to achieve our collective mission to protect our environment, communities, and the future of San Diego County.” 

“For too long, communities on both sides of the border have suffered from raw sewage polluting their waterways, their air, and their beaches,” said Yana Garcia, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Federal funds are needed to repair long-neglected infrastructure at the South Bay International Wastewater Plant. I’m grateful to Governor Newsom, Senator Butler and all our local, state, and federal partners who are working diligently with to secure this federal funding for a durable, long-term solution to this crisis.” 

“I appreciate U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler visiting the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant and for her willingness to learn more about the steps we are taking to address the public health challenges that have affected communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for too long,” said USIBWC Commissioner Dr. Maria-Elena Giner, P.E. “I am personally involved in doing everything we can to ensure U.S. and Mexican wastewater treatment plants are functioning properly and that our two countries have a solid plan to reduce transboundary flows.”

“WILDCOAST is thankful that Senator Butler took the time to tour the Tijuana River Valley to see firsthand the devastating economic, ecological, public health and national security impacts of worsening cross border sewage and toxic waste,” said Serge Dedina, Executive Director, WILDCOAST. “More than ever we need to fast-track federal investment to fix this crisis.”

Previously, Senator Butler signed onto a letter led by California Governor Gavin Newsom expressing support for the $310 million requested by President Biden in the final FY24 appropriations package. The $310 million requested would go towards rehabilitation and expansion of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant to increase treatment capacity from 25 million gallons per day to 50 million gallons per day, dramatically cutting down the amount of pollution and sewage that flows down the Tijuana River and into the waters of Imperial Beach, Coronado, and San Diego.


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