Thursday, February 25, 2010

Environmental and Health Concerns Don't Stop at U.S.-Mexican Border

The border between the United States and Mexico is fortified with walls and fences and patrolled by aircraft, remote-sensing technology, and an increasing number of border patrol agents.

But just putting up barriers doesn't break the deep-rooted economic and cultural ties between the two countries. And it doesn't stop the environmental and public health concerns that straddle the border and demand solutions from both nations.

At the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego, scientists described how the Los Laureles Canyon, which stretches from Tijuana to the San Diego wetlands, is ravaged by pollution. This causes public health problems for impoverished Tijuana residents and environmental problems that affect migratory birds and people on both sides of the border.

Hiram Sarabia of the UCSD NIEHS Superfund Research Program describes the canyon as an “urban observatory” that mirrors thousands like it along the 2,000-mile length of the border. Debris, wastewater, and contaminated dust and soil from a large swath of Tijuana funnel into the canyon streams, which ultimately empty into the Tijuana estuary and then the Pacific Ocean on the U.S. side of the border.

The debris-filled, dusty hillsides of the canyon, home to 65,000 Mexicans, are within several miles of the opulent hotels and popular beaches of downtown San Diego, though most Americans have never been there.

As Kim Larsen documented in a Fall 2009 cover story for OnEarth, impoverished Mexican residents typically have little access to quality health care, and public health issues that arise in Mexico also impact U.S. residents. The United States spends about a million dollars a year dredging the estuary, and the pathogens and toxicants streaming through the canyon into the estuary and local beaches have other financial and health costs.

Tijuana’s population increased quickly and exponentially in recent decades, largely to fuel the maquiladora sector, which are factories owned by U.S. and foreign companies that line the Mexican side of the border. Shantytowns sprung up with little infrastructure or planning, meaning roads are unpaved and there are no sewage systems. Soapy water and raw sewage run in streams of “agua negra” running through the canyon, where kids play and stray animals drink.

Pathogens from raw sewage, dead animals, and other sources accumulate in the water and in the dust that permeates Tijuana and washes into the estuary. Canyon residents are at high risk for Valley Fever, a bacterial disease spread through dust. Residents in the “colonias” (or villages) hugging the canyon hillsides report high incidences of skin and respiratory disease and eye irritation.

Meanwhile, toxicants including PCBs, PAHs, heavy metals, and dioxins are rampant. Water and air emissions and solid waste from maquiladoras make their way into soil and streams. Illegal dumping of hazardous chemical and industrial waste is widespread. And heavy metals and chemicals slough off from the tires, trashed appliances, and other discards used to build retaining walls and shacks throughout the canyon.

These old tires and washing machines symbolize the interlocked fortunes of the United States and Mexico in this region: they are likely to be manufactured by American companies in Mexican maquiladoras, then sold to U.S. consumers, then returned to Mexico on the second-hand market, then reused to bolster crumbling shantytown cliffs. Ultimately, toxics from these products flow through the canyon back into the United States.

Scientists and advocates say environmental and planning policy at the border is a messy realm, with a serious dearth of agencies, policies, or legal frameworks to facilitate infrastructure and environmental improvements. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 1994, was supposed to create mechanisms for environmental protection and bi-national cooperation, but that has not been the case in any meaningful way.

San Diego State University professor and author Lawrence Herzog said the maquiladora industry bears much responsibility for addressing the environmental and health problems in Los Laureles canyon and beyond.

“The U.S. and multinational corporations who use the border to profit have not stepped up to the plate to pay for the advantages they are gaining from the region,” Herzog said. “Why aren’t the multinational companies that are making billions from cheap labor paying for infrastructure and the problems they’re creating?”

Some solutions are relatively simple and inexpensive. Scientists and advocates are involving U.S. volunteers and Tijuana residents to pave roads with hexagonal concrete tiles, which cuts down on dust and erosion. Oscar Romo, with NOAA’s coastal training program, has worked with locals to build strategically engineered retaining walls out of tires.

Romo said this doesn’t create contamination like the haphazard tire retaining walls, and it diverts tires from ending up in the estuary. He said his project reused 10,000 tires in a month, while the government of Baja state has only removed 2,000 tires in a year.

Scientists are also mapping and analyzing contamination and sedimentation patterns to better understand the challenges and possible solutions. Keith Pezzoli of the UCSD NIEHS Superfund Research Program said that while U.S. agencies spend about a million dollars a year dredging the Tijuana estuary, “with a fraction of that amount of money you could do a proactive intervention in the (Tijuana) hillsides to stabilize the land.”

Sarabia said that scientists gathering information and working with community groups in Tijuana can help build the political will and grassroots process needed to address the canyon’s problems on a number of levels.

“Our role builds capacity of the community to identify, prioritize and address contamination and public health problems,” said Sarabia. “You can’t make decisions in a vacuum. We need to work closely with the community, to provide incentives for them to work with us, and our projects have the potential to create jobs in the community.”

By Kari Lydersen, OnEarth Magazine

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Plans to step up Navy training worry neighbors

Noise, environmental issues on Silver Strand
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

K.C. Alfred
Members of Beachmaster Unit 1 conducted drills last week at the Navy’s Silver Strand Training Complex.

Photo by K.C. Alfred
The Navy wants to increase training activities at Silver Strand to 5,343 from 3,926 annually.

The Navy plans to increase training activity off the Coronado coast in order to meet accelerated sailor deployment demands and an increase in Marine Corps personnel requiring training.

The Navy wants to bolster its activity at the Silver Strand Training Complex and has issued a draft environmental impact statement concerning the changes. It will hold two public hearings on the matter.
• The first will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today at the Imperial Beach Community Center, 825 Imperial Beach Blvd.
• The second will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Coronado Community Center, Nautilus Banquet Room, 1845 Strand Way.
Anyone wishing to submit comments to the Navy can send them to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, SouthwestAttn: Mr. Kent Randall – Silver Strand Training Complex EIS.1220 Pacific Highway, Building 1, 5th FloorSan Diego, CA 92132

A Navy landing craft moves through the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean and toward the beach. Precision is required because the surf zone can be demanding.
During the training operation in southern Coronado last week, members of a 300-person Navy team responsible for moving combat troops and equipment from ship to shore and providing them with logistic support controlled the landing craft.
“It’s a realistic training environment, and by practicing in these conditions, we can get better and better at it,” said Cmdr. Todd Perry, commanding officer of Beachmaster Unit 1.
To meet heavier training demands, the Navy is proposing ramping up activity at the Silver Strand Training Complex, including more helicopter flights, firearm discharges and use of sensitive land. That has some residents and environmentalists worried about what it will mean to neighborhoods, delicate bird habitat and vernal pools.
The Navy is studying the environmental effects of increased use of the 540-acre site where land, beach and offshore wartime training has been conducted for more than 60 years.
According to a draft environmental impact statement, the Navy proposes to increase the frequency of training activities to 5,343 from 3,926 annually. The Navy hopes to increase the number of helicopter sorties to 2,200 from 778 a year and firearm discharges to 1,400 from 150. It plans to use, with some limitations, the nesting areas of endangered birds and allow training on foot over vernal pools when dry.
While some proposed changes may occur immediately, most would happen over the next several years.
The Navy is looking for public comment on its plan; it has the final say on how it addresses the effect of the increased training.
“The amount of extra training they’re proposing would be quite noticeable and really change our quiet neighborhood,” Imperial Beach resident Jeff Foster said. “If it makes a big impact on the peace of the neighborhood, it won’t be a desirable place to live.”
Jim Peugh, conservation leader for the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, said that though he hasn’t read the Navy study sitting on his desk, his initial concerns are about the increased access to three ocean-to-beach training lanes that are off-limits from April through September, during the nesting season of the endangered California least tern and Western snowy plover. Access would only be allowed, however, if other shoreline areas are occupied, unavailable or less suitable for training.
“They have a lot of training lanes at North Island and Camp Pendleton,” Peugh said. “We can’t afford to lose tern habitat.”
Peugh said tern habitat at Mission Bay has had “lousy results” for years. He said a Navy program to protect nesting sites along the Silver Strand isthmus has been very successful. He said that a significant portion of the entire least tern population is at Silver Strand and that its protection is important.
Delphine Lee, project manager with the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said no habitat would be lost. She said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is completing its review of the study, allows the Navy to “impact up to 450 nests a year.”
“There’s certainly a possibility of nests being hurt, but we had 1,700 nests last year and only 20 to 30 were adversely affected,” said Lee, who added that even if training were conducted in those three lanes, it’s likely no nests would be bothered.
The Navy is holding information and comment sessions for the public today and tomorrow. The first is at the Imperial Beach Community Center, the second at the Coronado Community Center. Both are from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and both will be preceded by an open house at 4 p.m.
The draft report found minimal effects in an array of areas, including land use, air quality, marine biological resources, fish, birds, and public health and safety. Cumulative effects to geology and soils “would be negligible,” the study found.
At the southern end of the Silver Strand Training Complex, near Imperial Beach, the study found that training would “increase the number of intrusive noise events.”
Foster is expecting a dramatic increase in noise from the number of proposed helicopter sorties.
“The gist of the report is that helicopter sorties will increase but the decibel level is the same, therefore there is no impact,” Foster said. “It ignores the fact there are more.”
Lee said the service wants all those with questions about the plan to forward their concerns. All comments received by March 9 will be addressed and incorporated into the final environmental report.
Navy officials say they need to supplement training to meet “aggressive schedules” for sailors and Marines at the complex sandwiched between Silver Strand State Beach and Imperial Beach. Naval Base Coronado is the West Coast hub for naval amphibious operations.
The training complex opened in the early 1950s, and those who train there include Navy SEALs, ordnance disposal teams and assault craft units. Troops with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force also conduct exercises.
City officials in Imperial Beach and Coronado say they are reviewing the draft document and would not comment before their studies are completed.
According to the Navy’s study, new types of training for detecting mines, as well as for amphibious and special-warfare operations, are being proposed at the training facility. The Navy plans to train in vernal pools north of Imperial Beach when the pools are dry. Lee said the Navy would establish a plan to monitor the pools, which are shallow depressions that fill during storms and provide a seasonal breeding ground for various species, some of them endangered. Officials say more Naval Special Warfare personnel and Marines are being trained in Coronado.
At the training operation at the complex last week, about 25 sailors on shore guided vehicles to and from the landing craft, which held about a dozen sailors. The rest of the Navy team remained aboard the dock landing ship Pearl Harbor just offshore.
“It’s much more difficult than it looks because of the surf and the underwater currents,” said Perry, who added that most of the sailors in the training exercise would be deployed to the Western Pacific. “They need to train in actual conditions.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No B.S. Network Meeting

Tijuana River Network- meeting notes- February 18, 2010
WiLDCOAST office, Imperial Beach
Attendees: Laura Silvan from Fundacion La Puerta, Margarita Diaz from Proyecto Fronterizo, Roderick Michener from Surfrider, Dan Kesler, Danielle Litke from TJ Estuary, Rachael Dorfman from SF, Angela Howe from SF National, Jeff Knox from TRCC, Carmen Romo from Calidad de Vida, Gabriel Sanchez from Calidad de Vida, Claudette, Morgan Justice-Black from ILACSD, Jay Novak from TRCC, Dan Watman from Border Encuentro, Ben McCue from WiLDCOAST and Dan Murphy from Surfrider
1) Welcome and Introductions/Check In

2) Reviewed purpose of the network: “To renew the Tijuana River by working together (suggested adding Internationally) for a solution giving a voice to the community by engaging in cleanups, outreach, education and advocacy to address the root cause of the Tijuana River pollution.”

3) Groups discussed purpose for being at meeting:

Border Encuentro: identified with the “borderless” focus of the network; discussed how B.E. has taken a more environmental focus in their activities.

Fundacion la Puerta: sharing information with other groups working on TJ River Watershed issues; Learning from the experiences of others; and identifying opportunities for engagement/collaboration. Laura mentioned that the network should not strain groups by taking on additional projects but rather should work together in ways that increase the effectiveness of member groups’ current projects.

I Love a Clean San Diego: Partnering with other groups on cleanup events and sharing opportunities for collaboration.

Proyecto Fronterizo: (similar purpose as Fundacion la Puerta)

Surfrider: Working with other groups to improve the border region’s beach water quality; and improve the ability of the water testing program to improve water quality policy.

Tijuana Calidad de Vida: Sees network as bringing out partnerships with others to increase the quality of life of residents in Tijuana.

Tijuana Estuary Volunteer Program: Working through the network to increase the effectiveness and scope of the Estuary’s volunteer program with the overall goal of improving the watershed.

Tijuana River Citizens’ Council: Working with other groups to carry-out clean water advocacy in the watershed to decision makers.

WiLDCOAST: networking with other groups to share information, learn, collaborate, and explore new partnerships to improve the health of the watershed and the nearshore coastal environment.

a) Roderick mentioned a idea for the name of the network – Border Area Clean Action Network
b) The group agreed we need to emphasize the International aspect of the Network. Do we want to use Border in the name? Our main purpose together as a group is (Environmental) Stewardship. Somehow we need to incorporate this into the purpose statement and the name.

4) Organization leads
a) ACTION ITEM: Add each lead to the Listserve and Margarita will maintain

5) Discussion
a) TJ Estuary Visitors Center has many volunteer activities in the Border Field Area. March 13th – adding natives
b) Every Second Saturday of the month there are volunteer opportunities at the Estuary
c) Laura from Fundacion La Puerta mentioned bringing her volunteers across the border to a second Saturday event.
d) Group agreed that Border Field Area should be a good place to bring volunteers for awareness and education of the sediment basins, border wall…etc
e) Need to set up some trainings with the different Group Volunteers for outreach and awareness to Public Officials.
f) Carmen mentioned there are many programs focused in the Los Laureles Sub-Watersheds. They meet every 3 months – Consejo de Admin Programa Parcial de Mejoramiento de la sub cuenca de los laureles.
g) Need to hold meeting in Tijuana (scheduled for March) and Tecate.
h) Organize separate goals and missions and how we align the network goals. We all have something in common. We are all concerned about the TJ River Watershed. We need to empower ourselves.
i) Need to plan for more watershed improvement projects

6) Work Plan Activities

a) ACTION ITEM: Each network monthly meeting should have training component (ex: water policy/enforcement in U.S. and MX; watershed dynamics 101; Media advocacy, etc.). WiLDCOAST will work with Tijuana Calidad de Vida to schedule the training for the March meeting on a U.S./MX comparison of water quality policy/enforcement.
b) ACTION ITEM: The hosting of Network meetings will be shared between groups. Groups that are willing to host a meeting should propose what month they would like to host and send to
c) ACTION ITEM: Need to calendar all events in one place. One stop place for all the events. Morgan mentioned the has a calendar of events that we could potentially add to. The site is currently maintained by Jeff Smith from the SE lagoon.
d) ACTION ITEM: Need to decide on a all-day cross-border watershed tour from San Diego-Tecate-Tijuana. Paloma will send out potential dates to the group.

7) October “Tijuana River Action Month”
a) Nesting Season runs from February 15th to September 15th and cleanups in the River Valley and at the River Mouth need to take place outside of these dates. WiLDCOAST and TJ Estuary discussed making October “Tijuana River Action Month”. This is also the month that Coastal Cleanup Day, Fiesta Del Rio, and the Dempsey Holder Contest take place. All events will focus on the need to address pollution in the watershed through a shared, borderless approach.

8) Create Calendar of cleanup events
a) Discussed under line item 4 (g). Group to utilize until formal website and calendar has been established. Also, each individual group has their own sites, calendars, blogs, Facebook accts…etc

9) Next meeting : Tijuana Calidad de Vida proposed to host our next meeting in Playas de Tijuana.
Using to determine the date.
a) ACTION ITEM: Dan and Carmen to figure out group shuttle logistics.

10) Adjourn

Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team Workshop

Meeting notes from Friday, January 29, 2010 – 9am to 12

Lowest Atmospheric pressure ever recorded.
Mouth of the river -> Sand covered channels south of the river mouth. Tidal exchange keep lagoon healthy.
Goat Canyon Flows – sediment basins: capacity of sediment basins is 55 to 60,000 cubic yards
Binational Action Team Priority Projects:
Study sediment loads. This should be the #1 priority. Funding is currently the issue. Prioritize which of the five main Tijuana canyons contribute the most and what mechanisms will work best and where to locate them (characterization study). Los Salces Canyon (Yogurt Canyon), Los Laureles (Goat Canyon), Matadoro (Smugglers Gulch), Central, Main Channel . This would require negotiation with Mexico.
End goal of restoration of River Valley and Estuary
Understand the hydrology of the river valley. Studies that have been done of the hydrology
Legislation at the state level is what we need
Place trash booms/sediment basins in each of the five canyons, in order of importance (i.e. each canyon would have a cost and be an individual project). Trash study of where its coming from and cut off the flow. Issues have been addressed in the 2012 meetings.
Purchase conservation easements to protect undeveloped areas and reduce sediment loads.
Implement a Tijuana tire reutilization program to use tires where they are generated for building projects that create engineered retaining walls that will stabilize a defined number of acres, shredding for pavement, creating cells to confine trash in landfills and other uses.
Establish a plastic recycling program that includes recycling centers and redemption funding for turning in plastics. There are currently no government sponsored recycling programs. Carme’s group is looking at private grants. Need to reduce the flow of plastics. Sutdies have been done on the sediment and trash.
Border Action Team:
Design and implement a Smuggler’s Gulch sediment basin and trash capture facility. The design would be completed in a defined period of time and would include the location, size & design of the basins, need for CEQA & other studies, information about how complement the downstream configuration.
Upgrade existing goat canyon sediment basin to increase capacity and identify costs to cover ongoing operation and maintenance costs, including disposal of sediment.
Design and implement Main River channel sedimentation basin and trash capture facility.
Raise portions of Monument Road to elevate it above flood areas, act as a buffer to project marsh areas and Border Field State Park. Work should be integrated as part of the Smuggler;s Gulch plan.
Install flow monitoring systems in the main river channel, Smugglers Gulch, Goat Canyon, Silva’s Drain and Stewart’s Drain
Cleanup Action Team
Completely characterize all trash, sediment, and pollutant sources in the Tijuana River valley that provides a basis for the “Cleanup Action Plan.” Characterization should include:
Trash – type, quantity, value, removal methods. Present on website and link it to the TJ River Recovery Team website.
Sediment – location, quantity, removal methods. URS is currently conducting this study. Test Pits and borings report. Flow gauges placed at sediment basins for trash characterization.
Pollutant source – location, source, levels, removal/treatment methods
Estimated Cost - $1 million
Complete a hydraulic and hydrology study of the Tijuana River valley to provide information as to the quantity and type of sediment and trash deposited in the Tijuana River valley. Estimated cost: $750,000
Develop a plan to dispose of and/or reuse sediment from past, current and future deposits on an ongoing basis. The team believes this can be a cost neutral action with good planning and agency cooperation. The plan would include communicating effectively between the cleanup agencies following
They can provide high quality reclamation products that can be used by other agencies, local area residents, Mexico, etc.
Cost offsets can be achieved by negotiating contracts with material suppliers to excavate and process high value material.
Material deemed suitable can be used to replenish South San Diego or Tijuana Beaches with material that would have been naturally deposited.
Restoration of the Nelson/Sloan Quarry could be met with materials removed from the Tijuana River valley.
Both Local residents and area agencies could benefit from materials made available to construct storm water control devices and property elevation.
Remove sediment on a continual basis. With an effective reclamation plan the costs for removal can be mitigated and offset as stated above. This includes maintenance, placement/location and removal of illegal fill. Estimated cost: $20 to $25 million over ten years for the above items.
List Tijuana River Valley properties that would be best purchased for long term mitigation. Properties not agency held should be compiled in an effort to analyze which properties have the most potential for inundation and where acquisition would facilitate clean up.
Restoration Action Team
Develop a restoration master plan and guiding principles to unify various plans, visions, and project lists plans, (e.g. ACOE plan, Estuary and County Habitat Plans, etc.) Key factors will be flood control and design, identification of specific restoration projects like exotic invasive removal and work to ease permiting hurdles. Include coordination and management funding to implement.
Unify the various agencies/parties plans and projects for the river and estuary.
Verify the “models” used in the plans and projects.
Develop an ecosystem-scale monitoring and assessment program that includes flood control and gauging.
Remove the fill on the Peggy Brown property to restore river elevation. Fill was unpermitted and property is no deeded to the county. The fill is a bottleneck to floodplain function and river flow.
Restoration Action Team projects already funded and being implemented at Recovery Team level.
Develop and enhance GIS, web, data portals to improve information dissemination (includes identifying and archiving and mapping past, present and proposed projects and plans mentioned in Retoration Action team list)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Proposed aqueduct would quench Baja wine valley

— As they watch millions of gallons of treated Tijuana wastewater flow into the Pacific Ocean each day, Baja California authorities say they have a better idea: Why not pipe it to the Guadalupe Valley, Baja California’s winemaking region, where the water table has been falling even as the area has risen in international renown?

Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán’s government is proposing a 46-mile aqueduct that would carry the treated water from eastern Tijuana to the vineyards and olive groves in the small agricultural valley north of Ensenada.

“If we wanted to use all the treated water in the city, we’d be hard-pressed to find places to put it, no matter how many green areas we had,” said Efraín Muñoz, head of the State Water Commission, Baja California’s water planning agency.

Miles from Tijuana’s crowded hillsides, winemakers in the picturesque Guadalupe Valley say they’re running out of water, and that is threatening the future of a region responsible for 90 percent of Mexico’s wine production.

The valley shares its wells with the city of Ensenada, and the growing demand for urban and agricultural uses has put unprecedented pressure on the aquifer.

The Guadalupe Valley would not be the first to use reclaimed water in its vineyards. Napa Valley has been using treated wastewater in some vineyards for at least a decade, said Jeff Tucker of the Napa Sanitation District.

Hugo D’Acosta, owner of the Casa de Piedra winery and a member of the Baja California Wine Growers Association, offers cautious endorsement for the pipeline proposal.

The reclaimed-water project could offer a solution, he said, “if and when it’s well-executed and meets the needs of the valley.”

D’Acosta and other vineyard owners have become increasingly wary of encroachment by housing developments and fear that without strict zoning regulations, the pipeline could encourage large-scale projects that destroy the valley’s vocation.

“I see it as feasible, but also very dangerous,” D’Acosta said of the proposed aqueduct.

This is not the first proposal aimed at using Tijuana’s wastewater. A U.S. company, Bajagua, for years proposed building a treatment plant in Mexico with $170 million in U.S. government funds, then selling up to 59 million gallons of reclaimed water a day. But the San Marcos company’s much-debated proposal failed in 2008 when the International Boundary and Water Commission opted to instead upgrade its existing San Ysidro treatment plant that treats 25 million gallons of Tijuana sewage a day.

Collecting and treating Tijuana’s sewage has been the subject of binational efforts for decades. The city’s spills and overflows risk contaminating San Diego County beaches and threaten the Tijuana River estuary, a federally protected wetland. Although dry-weather flows have largely been eliminated, cross-border sewage flows during wet weather continue to shut down South Bay beaches.

Last year, officials on both sides of the border celebrated when Tijuana’s state-operated utility, the CESPT, inaugurated the Arturo Herrera sewage treatment plant in eastern Tijuana.

The opening launched Tijuana’s first comprehensive wastewater-reuse program, and the inauguration of a pipeline carrying 470,000 gallons a day from the plant to nearby Morelos Park.

The CESPT is completing a second treatment plant nearby called La Morita, and is planning a third one, Cueros de Venado. The three plants would feed the Guadalupe Valley aqueduct up to 25 million gallons a day of wastewater treated to a secondary level, which is acceptable for irrigation purposes.

Muñoz, the Baja California water planner, said the Guadalupe Valley pipeline proposal has a good chance of becoming a reality, but it faces several hurdles.

Because the state government can’t afford the project’s $169 million price tag, it is turning to the private sector. The winning bidder would recover its investment by selling the water. But to keep water rates down, federal funds are also needed, Muñoz said.

The state hopes to put to the project out to bid this year and begin construction in 2011, Muñoz said.

Before reaching the Guadalupe Valley, some of the water would be diverted to the Valle de las Palmas outside Tijuana, where a satellite city is under construction. Additional amounts would be delivered to agricultural communities along the way, with the remainder stored at a reservoir planned at the valley’s northern end, Muñoz said.

The water would receive further treatment before being delivered to growers, allowing it to be used in spray and drip irrigation systems.

Even with the Guadalupe Valley pipeline in the planning stages, Muñoz is looking ahead to a second project to use the rest of Tijuana’s treated wastewater.

He envisions a coastline pipeline that would supply communities with irrigation water for their green spaces.

“It would be much cheaper than the drinking water we are now using,” Muñoz said.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Top photo: Goat Canyon trash boom, bottom photo: Dairy Mart Bridge. 1/30/10, courtesy of WiLDCOAST
The following was posted on the website for Proyecto Fronterizo....

ATTENTION Tijuana residents, citizens, boys and girls, students, teachers, researchers, scientists, legislators, authorities. We all have to do with this environmental catastrophe.

Three weeks ago, local environmental organizations have witnessed a sudden rise of plastic pollution along Tijuana's shoreline. After two coastal cleanups during January 2010 1.3 tons of trash, composed mainly by plastics and more specifically by polystyrene, have been removed from the beach.

The first case was Cañada Azteca, where an impressive amount of such plastic material accumulated and was removed by a hundred people, including neighbors and volunteers from organizations joined by the Community Project Salvemos la Playa (Save the Beach) during an Emergency Coastal Cleanup on Sunday January 17th. Six hundred kilos were removed. That's 6 kilos each.

The second case was last Saturday, January 30th during the celebration of the first International Beach Conservancy Day at Playa El Vigía, which turned out to be more alarming. Back at Cañada we were able to restore the place but this time it was practically impossible due to the presence of millions of plastic particles. We're talking about an almost mile-long beach full with plastic containers, beverage bottles and caps, disposable cutlery and huge amounts of polistyrene (foam). Here more than 700 kilos were removed (that's 11.6 a piece). Not only was it overwhelming because of the vast extension buy also because of the particle's small size and the fact that it easily mixes with the beach's natural elements like sand and algae.

We truly believe this is an environmental catastrophe.

Through this message we want to raise some questions for us all. Questions that can help us solve this catastrophe TODAY but also in the FUTURE.

How do we clean up ALL THIS WASTE and stop it from affecting marine life?

How do all this plastics get to the ocean? How can we reduce or refuse its use?

What's the relation between this tragedy, drought, population growth and recent rainfall?

Do we have the courage to modify our consumption habits?

Are we willing to legislate around this matter? Are we willing to enforce laws?

Are we going to stay with our arms crossed, again?

What have you got to do with all these?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

January Tijuana Sloughs Clean Up

Special thanks to those who came out to the rescheduled beach cleanup at the Tijuana Sloughs on Saturday. We collected about 660 lbs of trash in 2 hours and had about 100 volunteers show up. We would like to hold more of these Sloughs beach cleanups in the future and will be posting dates on the Surfrider calendar soon. Check out the rest of the pictures here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Toxin probe eyes link to Tijuana

Nearly six years ago, environmentalists and government officials on both sides of the border cheered as cleanup efforts began on the site of Metales y Derivados, a notorious former American-owned lead smelter in Tijuana whose neighbors long had complained of health problems, including birth defects, that they blamed on the toxic-waste site.

As part of an agreement, roughly 2,000 tons of lead-contaminated soil and other waste removed from the site was trucked north to the United States for disposal. As it turns out, some of it wound up in a Central California toxic-waste dump that is now at the center of controversy over a suspected cluster of birth defects in families living nearby.

The waste trucked in from Tijuana, about 20 tons in all, constitutes a minute fraction of the toxic materials deposited in a landfill just outside Kettleman City, an agricultural community off Interstate 5 halfway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Still, news of the health concerns there, which have prompted a state investigation, have those who pushed for the cleanup in Tijuana shaking their heads.

“We feel terrible,” said Amelia Simpson, director of the border environmental justice campaign with the Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego, which worked with the U.S. and Mexican governments on the cleanup. “It is another low-income community, and in this case, Latino.”

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the California Department of Public Health and the state’s Environmental Protection Agency to send experts to Kettleman City to expand their investigation into what could be causing a higher-than-normal percentage of birth defects.

The state health department’s study is under way, with analyses of medical records for birth defects, cancer and asthma and monitoring of drinking water. The probe will include interviews with residents and reviews of soil samples, with initial findings expected to be made public Feb. 9.

According to a health survey that activists conducted in the small town, five of the 20 infants born between September 2007 and November 2008 to Kettleman City residents had a cleft palate or lip, and three of them have died.

“The question is, is there a cluster, and is there an environmental link?” said Al Lundeen, a spokesman for the state health department.

There was never an official study linking birth defects in Tijuana’s Ejido Chilpancingo, a poor residential area, to the adjacent Metales y Derivados site that sat exposed for years, long after the plant was closed.

“People never made a formal complaint because in our community, it is a stigma,” said Magdalena Cerda, a community organizer with the Environmental Health Coalition. “All of the cases we knew of, they kept them a secret.”

Cerda, who worked directly with residents near the Tijuana site, said health problems in the Chilpancingo community included cases of children born with hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, and spina bifida, a defect in which the spinal canal and backbone do not close before birth.

Lead poisoning also interferes with development of the central nervous system and can cause learning and behavioral difficulties in children, who are particularly susceptible to the toxin.

Environmental activists have filed suit to stop a planned expansion of the Kettleman City site, which is owned by Chemical Waste Management Inc. and is believed to be the largest toxic-waste dump in the West.

While no one can say with certainty what is causing birth defects there, the director of the San Francisco-based environmental group Greenaction, which is involved in the lawsuit, said more monitoring of the site is needed.

“Monitoring is not what it needs to be, and we think the dump should never be expanded,” said Bradley Angel, executive director of the group.

Helen Herrera, a spokeswoman for Chemical Waste Management, said that the company supports the state’s health study but that there is no evidence linking the site to birth defects.

Metales y Derivados, which recycled vehicle and boat batteries brought in mostly from the United States, operated during the 1980s. The contamination was discovered in the early 1990s; in 1994, owner José Kahn moved to San Diego to avoid arrest after Mexican authorities shut down the business and tried to charge him with breaking environmental laws. Kahn has since died.

For years afterward, the property remained littered with 55-gallon drums and other containers filled with lead waste. More than a decade’s worth of efforts on behalf of environmental organizations on both sides of the border resulted in an agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Mexican counterpart, Semarnat.

In June 2004, a portion of the waste from Metales y Derivados was sent to Kettleman City, according to a federal EPA report. As part of the binational cleanup deal, because Metales y Derivados was a U.S. company operating in Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the waste had to be removed to the country of origin. The rest of the roughly 2,000 tons of waste taken from the site and exported north went to a toxic-waste dump in Nevada.

More toxic waste would have been shipped back to the United States had it not been for the cost, said Saul Guzman, an official with Semarnat in Tijuana.

“That was the first solution, but it cost too much money,” Guzman said. “There was enough to move the first 2,000 tons, but there wasn’t enough money and we had to do what was most economically feasible.”

The alternate solution was to entomb an estimated 42,000 tons of remaining contaminated soil and waste beneath a concrete cap; about a year ago, a ceremony was held reopening the 4-acre site for use as a public park. The final cleanup cost was about $2 million, with the federal EPA contributing about $80,000.