West Coast
From a distance the International Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Tijuana River Valley on Aug. 30, 2023 The International Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Tijuana River Valley. (Alejandro Tamayo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

CA - Biden requesting $310M to fix, expand wastewater treatment plant fouling San Diego’s South County

President Joe Biden is asking that lawmakers grant $310 million in emergency spending to fix the sewage pollution from Mexico that is wreaking havoc on South County communities.

The administration on Wednesday sent to Congress a supplemental funding requestof $55.8 billion for natural disasters, child care and other expenses, which includes a petition “to prevent and reduce sewage flows and contamination in Southern California through support for ongoing design and construction at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant.”

Over the last five years, more than 100 billion gallons of toxic waste have flowed over the border from Tijuana and up the coast as far north as Coronado, according to the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, which operates the facility. Part of the problem is that the San Ysidro-based plant is partly broken and in dire need of repairs and expansion.

Biden’s request comes after pleas in August from California Sen. Alex Padilla and the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Senate leadership, as well as a companion appeal led by Rep. Scott Peters to House members in September.

“San Diegans have called on the federal government to put an end to this crisis for years,” Peters said in a statement Wednesday. “Today, thanks to their overwhelming advocacy and dedicated work from elected officials at every level of government, the President has responded to our pleas for help.”

The funding will require approval from both chambers of Congress, however, which Peters said “remains an uphill battle.” He added that he is “working to ensure we have the voters to get it across the finish line.”

If approved, the $310 million would supplement the $300 million that Congress secured in 2021 to cover the expansion of the South Bay treatment plant so that it can double the amount of raw sewage it treats, from 25 million gallons per day to 50 million gallons per day.

The expansion project has been part of a $630 million plan the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hoped to break ground on this year. However, it was revealed in June that the plant is in such a state of disrepair that it would cost at least $150 million to fix it before it could be expanded by the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, which operates the facility.

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