Improvements Made to Border Wastewater-Treatment Plant

By Ruxandra Guidi
May 16, 2011

Photo by Ruxandra Guidi
The South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) in San Diego treats waste water from Tijuana, and discharges the treated water to the Pacific Ocean. The border wall, and a Tijuana neighborhood, is visible from the water treatment site in San Ysidro.

SAN DIEGO -- The first phase of a wastewater-treatment plant on the U.S. side was completed in 1997. It treats up to 25 million gallons of sewage originating in Tijuana daily and discharges it into the Pacific Ocean. At a cost of almost $100 million, the improvements on the plant have been mired in delays and controversy over a failure by both governments to respond to the pollution.

"As a result of these investments, 90 percent of Tijuana residents actually have wastewater collection and treatment," said Doug Liden, the region's border coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is a partner investing in the treatment plant. "You compare this to a Mexican average of about 40 percent and you can see why these investments have been so important in this region."

Water pollution has been an ongoing concern on this side of the border since at least 1934, when the International Boundary Commission was instructed by the U.S. and Mexico governments to cooperate in sewage mitigation.

"Today, no longer does a river of raw sewage cross the border on a daily basis," said Liden. "And of course today, the effluent from this treatment plant now meets the standards of the Clean Water Act, further improving the coastal water quality."

As provided for in treaties between the countries, wastewater treatment is one of the many obligations of the International Boundary and Water Commission.