As an avid kayaker, I have had the pleasure of enjoying and becoming acquainted with California and Baja California’s beautiful and unique coastline.

In my opinion, there is no doubt that many of the surrounding coastal communities’ residents and officials — including those in Mexico — take our coastline for granted.

On a recent kayak trip, I traveled south from Imperial Beach to Rosarito, and on my way south I passed the well-known community of San Antonio del Mar, which is located about five miles south of the border.

As I kayaked into the vicinity of San Antonio del Mar, I came across what I consider the most severe example of environmental degradation I have ever witnessed. I was astounded to see a large area of brown water with an unusually large presence of marine birds and dolphins obviously feeding on something. I soon realized that I was paddling through a brown mixture of slimy untreated sewage. After kayaking for a few more minutes, I was further shocked by the concentration of the sewage and the vast span of coastline it covered. I was also surprised that there was not a containment crew trying to clean up the sewage.

When I returned to the site three days later, I was greatly disturbed to see that nothing had changed. All the while, I saw bathers swimming in the water, surfers surfing nearby and, of most concern, fishermen pulling fish out of the surrounding waters. There were no warning signs to inform the beachgoers or fishermen of what was obviously a public health hazard.

I have known for years that Tijuana has been unable to successfully process its sewage for decades and that the result has been frequent discharges into the Tijuana River Valley. Never did I imagine, however, that the problem occurred daily and the outflow drained directly into waters that were regularly frequented by the general public.

In fact, the condominium development proposed by Donald Trump is no more that a stone’s throw away from this outfall and will probably be sold touting the beautiful adjacent beaches. People will not know that by living there, they will be discharging their own sewage onto their beachfront property.

As I kayaked, I fought a very strong northerly current that is one of the strongest I have ever experienced in my years of kayaking along the coast. This uniquely strong current brings millions of gallons of this sewage into Playas de Tijuana, Imperial Beach, Silverstrand State Beach, and Coronado, which are frequented by millions of visitors and residents annually.

Sewage plume, San Antonio del Mar

The sewage plume can clearly be seen flowing north in an aerial view on Google Earth maps.

With the recent election of Tijuana’s new mayor, Jorge Ramos, and Baja California’s new governor, José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, an opportunity now exists to unite both San Diego and Mexico’s elected officials. Priority needs to be placed on preventing this type of sewage from entering our coastal waters. The hundreds of millions we propose to invest in improving water quality in San Diego by improving our creeks and watersheds and reducing discharge in our bays and beaches is but a mere drop in the bucket in comparison to correcting this immense problem that we seem helpless to address through our legal processes.

If anything, the Mexican government should acknowledge the problem as beyond their immediate control and post signage preventing swimming or fishing within a five mile radius of the outflow zone. Who knows how many people and animals have been affected by the contaminated water and seafood? It’s not too late to begin to correct this problem.

— BEN HUESO

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