Mexican pollution sickens Border Patrol agents
Raw sewage teeming with toxic chemicals dumped in Mexico's northern border city of Tijuana has been flowing for decades into the United States while local, state, and federal authorities in both countries have failed to prevent it. Now, those on the front lines of this crisis are saying enough is enough.This amounts to chemical and biological warfare against the US by the companies in Mexico that are dumping this material. I am surprised that litigation has not been filed against those companies. California should also consider brining litigation against them.
Unrestrained run-offs of ugly green and brown liquids have caused both figurative and literal headaches for U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Tijuana River Valley, a stretch of land south of San Diego from where the Tijuana River flows north from downtown Tijuana into California and then west to the Pacific Ocean. Some of the sewage is intentionally dumped in Mexico with the full knowledge that it will end up as a gruesome export to the United States.
“It’s been, like, 20 years it’s been a problem, but not until recently the residents of Imperial Beach are telling the politicians they need to do something about this beachfront property ... We’ve been dealing with it for decades," said Ralph DeSio, regional spokesman for Border Patrol's parent agency, U.S. Custom and Border Protection.
The smell — even on a sunny day when pools of water have dried up — is unforgettable. The liquid and soil the sewage runs through are also comprised of unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.
CBP commissioned a six-month study, published earlier this year, of 42 samples from the river and two culverts during dry, wet, post-rain, and standing water conditions. The run-off contained 710 times more arsenic, five times more lead, seven times more uranium, and 1,135 times more hexavalent chromium than local tap water. In addition, high levels of dozens of other chemicals were identified by the study.
Justin Castrejon, a Border Patrol agent and regional spokesman, said the report validated the claims of agents who have complained of physical health ailments after patrolling the affected areas. “It’s scientifically proven. Tests were done,” he said.
After the study, the agency moved to improve the situation for agents while they waited for the more senior authorities to address the problem. In March, CBP said it had installed personal and vehicle wash stations near the run-off so agents could “reduce exposure to contaminants and minimize cross contamination” by hosing down after their shift and before driving out to main roads. Vehicles had special cabin filters installed to improve internal air quality.
Agents were also given personal protective equipment, including gloves, respirators, masks, privacy tents, disposable clothing, and towels.