SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — A space station-like facility with several shiny devices, gadgets and sensors measures the bad odor coming from the raw sewage in the Tijuana River Valley nearby.
It sits on a perch near the border along the Interstate 5 freeway behind San Diego Fire Station No. 29.
The measuring station is operated by the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District, which says the new sensors were put in this month due to concerns from nearby residents.
“It is an additional tool that can be used to highlight and draw attention to this issue,” said David Sodeman, head of monitoring for SDCAPCD.
He said some of the devices have been measuring air pollution for some time now, while the new sensors will gauge the amount of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide in the air.
The higher the levels, the stronger the stench.
“If you go out and talk to the residents in the community you’re going to get some very impactful strong stories about how it’s affecting their quality of life,” Sodeman said. “This is yet another tool to back up those statements to really kind of drive home the message that this is an issue and an emergency that needs to be addressed now.”
The monitoring will help officials figure out whether the smell is getting worse.
“If they fix the (sewage) issue, we should be seeing that in the data, or if data goes back to natural background levels or non-existent values, at that point then we’ll reconsider whether it’s worth it to continue with the study or discontinue it,” said Sodeman. “But as of right now, we do not have an end date in mind.”
Other stations are in the works for the city of Imperial Beach and along the Tijuana River Valley itself.
For decades, especially during storms, the valley has been inundated by raw sewage that flows from Mexico via canyons and the Tijuana River into the U.S., plaguing communities such as San Ysidro, Imperial Beach and Coronado, California.
Tijuana’s sewage treatment infrastructure is considered outdated and in disrepair.
The U.S-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for sewage mitigation projects on both sides of the border, but the work has yet to begin.