California Water Board Sues Federal Agency for Pollutants Entering the U.S. Via the Tijuana River



The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) filed a complaint on September 4, 2018 against the United States Section of the International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC), alleging violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) related to contamination in the Tijuana River. Relying on a 1944 U.S./Mexico treaty, the complaint alleges that the IBWC is responsible for addressing waste entering the U.S. from Mexico along the Tijuana River watershed.

The Tijuana River crosses the border into California through a flood conveyance channel operated by the IBWC, feeds the Tijuana River Estuary—a coastal wetland home to multiple species protected under the California Endangered Species Act—and eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean. The IBWC constructed and maintains a wastewater treatment plant and a supporting system of concrete channels, detention basins and pump stations to capture and treat waste flows entering the U.S. from Mexico. And, in 2014, the Water Board issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the IBWC, allowing discharge of treated water into the Pacific Ocean.

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