July 4th marked the 569th consecutive day of beach closures in San Diego County, thanks to an ongoing sewage spill from the Tijuana River. San Diego officials declared a local emergency last month. Now, they’re calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden to act.
County Supervisor Chair Nora Vargas and Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer posted a video on Twitter last week, directly appealing to the governor and the president to declare a state of emergency. Formal letters and petitions were also sent to Sacramento and Washington. D.C., where a congressional delegation is lobbying for a declaration.
“As we saw this past holiday weekend with some of our beaches closed during Independence Day, the Tijuana River Valley environmental pollution crisis has reached a tipping point and we urgently need the federal government to step in and help us bring clean water to the families and visitors of San Diego County,” said Vargas.
"These closures continue to severely impact the life, health, and economic well-being of so many and we need a federal state of emergency if we truly want to address this issue."
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, around 35 million gallons of raw sewage is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Tijuana every day. It doesn’t just affect the water; recent studies show contaminants are transferred to the air by sea spray, potentially affecting the health of those on land.
Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre has been pleading for a federal emergency declaration for months.
“This is a very serious crisis to our public health, our economy and our environment,” she said back in April. “It impacts our economy when the beaches are closed. People who ignore the warnings and go in the water face the possibility of multiple infections to their eyes, skin and digestive tract.”
Read more about the crisis and its impact on the county here.