County to consider expanding efforts to investigate sewage crisis impacts on public health

News Date

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

San Diego County may soon expand its efforts to investigate potential public health risks from the cross-border sewage crisis.

The Board of Supervisors next week is expected to consider a policy that would lead to developing various strategies to better understand how air-borne contamination near where Tijuana sewage reaches South County may be making people sick.

Chair Nora Vargas and Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer are set to introduce the proposal.

“I think data is really, really important so that we are able to be ready to protect public health,” Lawson-Remer said Wednesday. “We’ve got all sorts of isolated reports and some additional indications (of health impacts) but the county can really step up.”

The proposal directs county staff to work with a newly formed task force led by the city of Imperial Beach, local doctors and researchers from San Diego State University and UC San Diego.

Specifically, county staff would collaborate on the launch of a community health survey to assess chronic exposure to pollutants and sewer gases and the potential impacts on asthma, norovirus and other infections and create an online data dashboard where the public could find all sorts of health and contamination information, such as notices of wastewater infrastructure malfunctions, weekly sewage flow amounts, air quality indicators, and drinking water and ocean water quality.

They would also request surveillance and water quality testing from other agencies that provide service to affected communities, such as the California American Water Company.

In addition, the county would develop decontamination protocols for floodwater tainted by sewage, chemicals, trash and other pollutants. According to the draft policy, local guidelines could be modeled after federal ones, such as using vacuum trucks and personal protective equipment.

Read More