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Ok, so I ripped off a line from “Ren and Stimpy” (a great show, I might add), but it is certainly true in this case. That’s why I was a bit disappointed about Scott Lewis‘ selective reading of the recently released Cory Briggs report about Bajagua and the recent editorial in support of Bajagua. Perhaps Lewis is disappointed in the U-T‘s well reasoned conclusion and prefers to lambaste them for previous statements in support of the project. Well, those statements are a part of the public record and clearly open to comment so, let’s comment.
First, for full disclosure, I currently represent Bajagua and have since 1999, so I come at this with what some will say is an obvious bias in mind. So, read on with that in mind.
As a member of the communication’s team for Bajagua, I have a personal interest and connection to the term “comprehensive” that Lewis and others have criticized. The word comprehensive can be defined (at least according to Merriam-Webster) as “covering completely” or “broadly.” It is also defined as “inclusive,” which is defined as “broad in orientation or scope.” The debate here centers on whether Bajagua is a “complete” solution meaning it solves all of the problems or simply an “inclusive” or “broad solution.” It’s also interesting to note that “complete,” as defined, is “having all necessary parts, elements or sets.” So, the question people are asking is whether Bajagua was oversold to build support.
To be clear, Bajagua never said we were going to solve all of Tijuana’s sewage treatment and collection problems. The U-T editorial that Lewis parses does suggest that, but their opinion is not a part of our public comment that there would not be another drop of Mexican sewage hitting the United States. The reason for that is simple, because part of that bigger solution relies on the local municipality and other government entities at the state and federal level in Mexico to address several items, including improvements to Tijuana’s sewage treatment plant at Punta Bandera, construction of the Japanese credit plants and improvements in the city’s collection system.
Bajagua, though, was an important and inclusive, holistic and comprehensive step in helping resolve this decades old border sewage crisis, particularly when compared against the simple upgrade of the International Wastewater Treatment Plant (IWTP) located on the U.S. side of the border.
Here’s why: Bajagua proposes to more than double the amount of sewage treatment capacity currently afforded by the IWTP. The IWTP was arbitrarily sized to treat 25 million gallons a day of sewage, which is far less than is being generated during “dry weather” meaning not the result of tainted run-off during rain events. Following a U.S. EPA study, and in accordance with federal law, Bajagua was sized to treat the EPA identified 59 million gallons a day of dry weather flows currently plaguing our border region. In addition, Bajagua is being located on a land mass where it can be increased in size as the Tijuana region grows and more sewage treatment capacity is needed. In addition, Bajagua proposes to reclaim the sewage and treat it to a higher level for resale to business, agriculture or the local municipality. The reuse of sewage has long been considered preferential by the environmental community, including the Sierra Club, to other water augmentation options like reservoirs or desalination. By reselling this resource, Bajagua is not only providing water for an arid and thirsty Tijuana, it is also providing a source of revenue to build sewage collection infrastructure to further capture what now flows freely into the many canyons around the city. The resale will also offset the cost of construction, operation and maintenance of the plant to the U.S. taxpayer, meaning there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the United States that allows for Mexico to operate and sustain the operation of the plant at the end of the 20 year contract.
When compared against the expansion of the IWTP, which is undersized (only 25 mgd), located in the United States (impacting U.S. citizens), promises no reclamation or reuse and will likely have to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers forever, you can see why Bajagua was and is considered to be that broader, inclusive (maybe not the end all, but dare I say, comprehensive) solution.