What would happen if Tijuana sewage crisis is declared an emergency?

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Article by Tammy Murga | Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

Saying this is “a pivotal moment that calls for resolute action,” all 18 mayors in San Diego County sent a letter last week to Gov. Gavin Newsom imploring him to declare a state of emergency over the decades-long sewage crisis at the border.

It is the latest in a string of pleas from local, county, state and congressional leaders demanding an immediate and forceful response from the governor and President Joe Biden to the constant contamination from the Tijuana River Valley that has closed beaches, imperiled residents’ health and jeopardized the South Bay economy.

“The magnitude of this crisis, with its far-reaching consequences, demands the full mobilization of every resource and enforcement authority at the state’s disposal,” the mayors say in their letter.

But what exactly would a state of emergency do? And does the sewage crisis meet the criteria?

Thirty years ago, in September 1993, San Diego was the first city to declare a local emergency because of the cross-border pollution and that declaration has remained active ever since.

It took three decades for the county of San Diego to follow suit. In June, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to issue a declaration and last week they continued it for at least another 60 days. Imperial Beach has had an emergency declaration in place for four years.

Under the county’s declaration, staff were directed to report back by next month with documented economic damages from cross-border pollution. Initial estimates for the county and affected cities exceed $20 million (disposing of garbage, placing beach closure signs, enforcement and water testing) since 2010 and are expected to climb, Nora Vargas, chair of the Board of Supervisors, told the state Office of Emergency Services last month.

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