Toxic Sewage Flowing From Mexico to California Creating a ‘Public Health Crisis’

A report found that the region around the San Diego border area with Mexico faces a public health crisis.
Toxic Sewage Flowing From Mexico to California Creating a ‘Public Health Crisis’
A U.S. Border Patrol agent patrols on an all-terrain vehicle where the border wall ends in the Pacific Ocean along the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana, during a tour with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at International Friendship Park in San Diego County, Calif. on May 10, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

A report found that the region around the San Diego border area with Mexico faces a public health crisis due to contaminated sewage flowing from Mexico into California.

In a report commissioned by Rep. Scott Peters (R-Calif.), San Diego State University researchers described the situation as a “public health crisis,” finding that raw sewage and other materials are flowing north into Southern California from Mexico via the Tijuana River. They noted that places like Imperial Beach and San Ysidro, California, as well as other areas, could face exposure to “untreated sewage.”

Specifically, the researchers said that people who live or work near the area can be exposed to harmful viruses, bacteria, parasites, and toxic chemicals. They highlighted the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria as well as serious and fatal pathogens such as tuberculosis, as well as banned chemicals and heavy metals.

Meanwhile, the researchers made note of the “unusual threats” posed to health by “pollutants from Mexico,” including human and animal diseases.  Contaminated water, they added, is constantly flowing into the Pacific Ocean, especially after heavy rainfall events.

“I don’t go to Imperial Beach anymore ... I used to go all the time, quite frequently,” lead author Paula Stigler Granados, with San Diego State University’s School of Public Health, told The Hill.

Researchers also warned that beachgoers are not the only impacted individuals, but those who live and work near the contaminated areas such as children, seniors, military members, lifeguards, border patrol agents, and others can be exposed to the waste.

They found that “toxic chemicals and microbes in raw untreated sewage, industrial waste, and urban run-off, once thought to remain isolated to just the water, can also be airborne and linger in soils, which may have much larger and farther reaching environmental health impacts,” according to a news release from the school earlier this month. “As part of the paper, researchers reviewed over 60 related studies and reports, examining environmental and public health concerns in the Tijuana River Valley and Estuary.”

Water samples taken from the Tijuana River and outlying areas revealed a number of fatal bacteria and viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis B, salmonella, vibrio, listeria, streptococcus, tuberculosis, and HIV, researchers say.

“South San Diego County is in a total state of emergency related to transboundary pollution, and this is a public health ticking time bomb,” Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre told ABC News this week. “We are living in conditions that nobody in this great nation should be living in.”

Doctors Kimberly and Matt Dickson, who run South Bay Urgent Care in Imperial Beach, told ABC News that after recent storms, they have seen a 200-to-300 percent rise in patients with stomach illnesses.

“These were people that were in the streets, going to school, but not swimming in the ocean. So, where was the transfer of bacteria and viruses going?” Matt Dickson asked. “How was it getting to these people if they weren’t swimming in the ocean?”

The doctor noted that if one sees a “street that’s flooded with sewage water, then you’re tracking bacteria back to your home or to the store,” adding that kids going to school could walk in flooded water with sewage, “then they go to class and they touch their shoes, and then they eat their lunch,” he said.

The sewage can be harmful to local wildlife. Scientists in the report made note of a recent incident where dolphins stranded in San Diego were found to have died from sepsis, which commonly caused by a bacterial infection.

In the release, Mr. Peters, the lawmaker wrote that people “must approach it as a health and national security concern” as the “environmental catastrophe has hurt the region for many years, resulting in decades of adverse health consequences.”

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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