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For the first time since it was built in 1997, the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant at the U.S.-Mexico border has met the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency three months in a row, according to Steve Smullens of the International Boundary and Water Commission. With that accomplishment, 90 percent of Tijuana’s wastewater is now being treated to cleanliness standards equal to or higher than cities on the U.S. side of the border.

“It’s very good news,” said Dave Gibson, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. “It’s an example of Tijuana’s growing commitment to the environment on both sides of the border. “

The border treatment plant’s final output is treated to secondary standards — cleaner than the city of San Diego’s, which fought for a waiver from the secondary requirement and treats only to advanced-primary standards. Once treated, the San Ysidro plant pumps effluent to the South Bay Ocean Outfall, about two miles offshore.

“The city of Tijuana is now producing cleaner wastewater day to day than the biggest U.S. city in the region,” Gibson said. “They’ve put a great deal of money and effort into it. Their lead agencies...put money into building and improving the plants in Tijuana.”

Most of Tijuana is served by four wastewater treatment plants. Two of those, Arturo Herrera and La Morita, which treat a total of 7 million gallons a day, produce “high quality” effluent — which is then pumped into the Tijuana River. The facility in the South Bay treats about 25 million gallons of wastewater a day.

The infrastructure in Tijuana wasn’t built with the backup pumps and bypass systems that most U.S. systems have, so working on the pipes can mean that the sewage is dumped into the Tijuana River. The last big sewage spills were in April — with 25 million gallons ending up in the Tijuana River — and in the U.S.

Last month, Tijuana gave notice to Imperial Beach, San Diego, the county, the water board, and other groups that 177,000 gallons of sewage were going to be released during a pipe repair. The response was immediate: No thanks.

“The pressure they felt made them back off from releasing it, and it didn’t happen,” border water commissioner Edward Drusina said at a citizens’ forum in Imperial Beach last week. “They are embracing a partnership with us.” Gibson agreed, pointing out that the U.S. has no jurisdiction or method to block the release of sewage in Mexico. Instead, he says, the growing relationships and cross-border investment are showing signs of improved sewage management.

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Comments

Visduh Aug. 24, 2012 @ 7:58 p.m.

Wasn't that plant, opened in 1997, bought and paid for by US taxpayers? After decades of inaction by the US government, that plant arrived on scene to clean up the US waters being dirtied in manner most foul by TJ sewage. Mexico agreed to let the US finance the whole thing and pay for its ongoing operation. Or am I just another anit-Mexican racist?

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Javajoe25 Aug. 25, 2012 @ 10:23 a.m.

You probably are just another a-nit Mexican racist, but not for saying the US picked up the tab on this one. Based on what I could find (Google South Bay Intn'l Treatment Plant) it looks like Uncle Sam did cover the cost, but Mexico is involved throughout although not clear on whether that includes expenses. But the US also got the most benefit from this plant too in terms of jobs, clean water, etc.

As for that racist thing...if you are referring to my comment in response to the article about the smell coming from the fish market in TJ, I was referring to the writer, not you.

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Visduh Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:44 p.m.

Java, I wasn't thinking anything about you when I put that misspelled question at the end of my comment. It's just that whenever I or any other reader makes a negative comment about things Mexican or about Mexico, it is so easy for those who disagree to brand us as racist. And that's about the worst thing many know to say.

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David Dodd Aug. 25, 2012 @ 1:14 p.m.

If you want Mexico to pay for it, then adjust the border, because the Tijuana River dumps into the Pacific Ocean in the United States of America. Simple as that. And much of the waste in the river comes from Maquiladoras, owned by Japan and the U.S. So, you know, forget about being a racist, just see this for what it is. I love Americans, and I AM an American, but holy crap do we get up on our high-horse sometimes without considering elements in any argument that involves some nationalistic BS way of thinking.

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Brad16 Aug. 25, 2012 @ 1:23 p.m.

Now if we could just do something about the New River running north into Calexico. The New River is notoriously recognized as the most polluted river in all of North American. It runs into the U.S. from Mexicali and is the cause for the massive fish and wildlife die offs in the Salton Sea. Bob Filner has been the Congressman in charge of that district for years and has done nothing about it while the children of the New River Mesa play in and around the river. The river is plagued with HIV, Hepatitis, Mercury, Lead, raw sewage, and as one doctor was quoted as saying, "I don't know what the hell that is." Filner claims he's an environmentalist but that seems to be a farce given his inept inaction concerning the crisis with the New River.

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Visduh Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:49 p.m.

He had a safe Dem seat in Congress. Why should he "do" anything at all? The truth is that he did little. No legislation to speak of was ever originated by good ol' Bob. The TJ River "problem" was finally "solved" after decades of inaction because of political pressure. I followed that miserable story for most of my adult life, and I still think it is a near-miracle that anything ever happened.

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