Fence erected by US authorities has stopped garbage from passing into US waters. Fence erected by US authorities has stopped garbage from passing into US waters. el universal/alexandra mendoza

Mexico blamed for Tijuana river pollution

Beaches closed on both sides of border after heavy rains

Beaches on both sides of the Mexico-United States border were closed this week due to high pollution levels.


Heavy rainfall on Tuesday carried debris known as “urban runoff” and untreated sewage overflow into the Tijuana river and on into the ocean.

Authorities in Imperial Beach, California, complained that the trash and pollution had been carried to the ocean on the Mexican side of the border, posing a health risk.

In an attempt to contain some of the pollution, Imperial Beach officials installed a net across the Tijuana river, effectively keeping the largest pieces of garbage from flowing farther into their territory.

A brown plume stretched from the Tijuana river valley past the Imperial Beach Pier, said Paloma Aguirre, coastal and marine director with the conservation organization Wildcoast.

“It’s not your typical river where it’s just stormwater, maybe car oil,” she said. “We’re up against bacterial, viral pathogens, toxic waste, chemicals, you name it. We’re getting pummeled.”

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina took to Facebook to demand recycling and clean-up programs from Tijuana authorities as a means to keep the pollution from becoming more serious.


“The fact that this toxic stew sits there for months and months without being cleaned up is one of the reasons we are going to sue the IBWC [the International Boundary and Water Commission] because much of the pollution that comes through the [Tijuana] river valley (much of which is in San Diego and county property) could be prevented from reaching the beach if we had the proper stormwater diversion infrastructure in place,” he wrote.

The non-governmental organization Environmental Education Border Project, or Proyecto Fronterizo Educación Ambiental, monitors water quality indicators off the Tijuana coast every week.

In its latest report, the NGO found that the current status of the beaches on both sides of the border is of “high pollution.”

In response and to avoid health risks, authorities from both sides of the border closed their beaches for 72 hours, a closure that is slated to end by Sunday.

Beach closures due to pollution are common in San Diego County.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported that the Imperial Beach shoreline is closed for more than one-third of the year on average due to water pollution from south of the border.

Source: El Universal (sp), San Diego Union Tribune (en)

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  • I hate to say it, but it’s a fact. My Mexican paisanos are frequently complete pigs. There is no excuse for this. In the town where I live in Michoacán, the government recently opened a big sports center that includes a soccer field. My wife and I were there just moments after the first game. The brand-new, freshly painted stands were littered with trash just tossed down by the visitors as they walked out. This is, sadly, quite typical.

    • kallen

      Agree 100%. I would only add that it seems to be a latin thing. Wherever I travel in latin America, I see garbage, environmental destruction and complete disregard for other life forms. This has a lot of downstream (pun intended…..except its not funny) effects besides litter on the beaches; look at the vaquita, dam building on the Amazon and Chile’s rivers, jaguar preserves, the Galapagos islands, illegal mining and logging – the list goes on and on. If latin America doesn’t want to be labeled “sh***hole”, then they should start acting like first world nations.

  • CensorSheep

    could it be s**t that comes out of a s**t hole? naw.

    • Garry Montgomery

      NO, trash creates a shit hole and unless the populace is made aware of what happens to incorrectly disposed of trash the situation cannot improve. Apply return fees to all containers, plastic, glass, metal. Recycling must rule regardless of the cost. And impose fines for incorrectly disposing of trash – Cheeto bags thrown out the window of a car etc.

  • Garry Montgomery

    Mexico needs a powerful education program in the schools and in the public domain about where discarded trash ends up. Every empty Cheeto packet, plastic Coke bottle and dirty diaper thrown from a car window eventually ends up in a river and then the ocean. Mexicans in general don’t seem to be aware of that or if they are, they ignore it thinking, “one little bottle? NAH!” It’s time to apply refund charges to every disposable item. Plastic bottles, especially. If every plastic bottle had even 1 peso return value, the return rate would be enormous. If a beer can has return value so should all plastic containers. As well, do away with plastic shopping bags, the pLastic bags within the store for fruit etc is ENOUGH. CARRY YOUR GOODS FROM THE STORE IN YOUR OWN BAG.