Supervisor Lawson-Remer Expands Mobilization Against The Tijuana River Sewage Crisis

News Date

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Joined by leaders from the cities of Imperial Beach and Coronado, County of San Diego Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer today outlined her policy to get the County Health and Human Services Agency more involved in examining health impacts on residents beyond direct water exposure. Studies by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography show that sewage-associated bacteria can be aerosolized by the ocean waves, potentially exposing unsuspecting people further inland. The Supervisor’s policy would expand data collection and develop stronger decontamination protocols for sewage-contaminated floodwaters.

“Our County has been leading the fight in partnership with our local cities to clean up the Tijuana River Sewage crisis, and this policy will empower our health experts to make more health data available and expand the way we respond to health threats,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer, Vice Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “We’ve been demanding the state and federal government take action to protect public health and clean up local beaches and that has yielded some financial investments for improvements, and if the Board approves this policy Tuesday, it reinforces our commitment to protecting our beaches, bays and coastlines.”    

Mayor Paloma Aguirre, who has been leading the effort to fix the Tijuana Sewage Crisis of the City of Imperial Beach has been working with Supervisor Lawson-Remer’s office on developing this new policy. In Mayor Aguirre’s city, up to three-quarters of the bacteria found there come from the aerosolization of raw sewage in the surf zone. Additionally, flooding from the sewage-contaminated Tijuana River overflows into streets, parks, and other public spaces where residents can come into contact and become sick. 

“I am extremely grateful to Vice-Chair Lawson-Remer for supporting our efforts to better understand the public health crisis Imperial Beach and south San Diego communities are facing. We are seeing increased reports of respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal issues, asthma, nausea, and headaches. Given the extensive pollution flowing through the Tijuana River Valley, it is critical that we fully understand the emerging public health impacts this pollution is having on South Bay communities. This policy will help us better understand the emerging public health threats caused by this emergency  and, hopefully, accelerate broader and more substantive support from our Governor and President to take action that is on par with the severity of this crisis,” said Mayor Aguirre, City of Imperial Beach. 

South Bay communities are not the only ones affected by untreated sewage, industrial waste, and urban runoff spilling into the Pacific Ocean and contaminating our beaches and coastlines and impacting people’s health. The City of Coronado, which Supervisor Lawson-Remer represents, also experiences the negative impacts of this sewage crisis.  

Supervisor Lawson-Remer’s policy County staff to begin meeting with the Task Force within 45 days and to develop coordinated strategies for mobilization, which include:

  • Launching a first-of-its-kind Community Health Survey examining health impacts beyond direct water exposure

  • Development of a Tijuana River Public Health Risk Dashboard

  • Development of a local decontamination protocols for sewage contaminated floodwaters

  • Collaboration with the Task Force to develop a list of data sources that can support tracking sewage-associated non-reportable diseases.

  • Requesting zip-code level data from California Breathing Program.

  • Enhanced communication with other agencies to increase surveillance and testing under their purview, including San Diego Regional Water Control Board, Air Pollution Control District, CDPH, and CDC.

  • Pursuing additional funding and support to assess economic and public health impacts of the sewage crisis.

County staff will report back to the Board quarterly with recommendations for further action to support these initiatives.

The policy was announced during a press conference at the County Administration Center.

Board Chair Nora Vargas agreed to add her signature to the policy. 


In June 2023, Supervisor Lawson-Remer and the Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency in response to the ongoing transboundary sewage and pollution crisis. The Board called on Governor Newsom and President Biden to issue similar declarations that would expedite access to federal resources and draw national attention to the crisis.

Despite recent federal funding victories, including $310 million for the International Water Boundary Commission and $144 million committed by the Mexican Federal government for upgrades to the Punta Bandera plant in Tijuana, further investments are crucial to permanently resolve the issue.