• Tech Tech

Experts warn of a mounting public health crisis at the US-Mexico border: 'It should never be normal to anybody'

"In the history of this issue, we have never had as much attention on it as we have had these past 12 months."

"In the history of this issue, we have never had as much attention on it as we have had these past 12 months."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new report by researchers at San Diego State University is sounding the alarm about a devastating sewage crisis at the border between Mexico and the United States.

What's happening?

Billions of gallons of raw sewage and urban runoff are flowing through the Tijuana River from Mexico into California, creating a toxic stew of chemicals that threatens public health in the region, according to the Guardian.

The sewage carries a dangerous mix of carcinogenic heavy metals like arsenic, as well as viruses, bacteria, and parasites, according to the study. The contamination has caused over 700 consecutive days of beach closures in San Diego County, the Guardian reported.

And it's not just the water — the pollution is also detectable in the air and soil, putting even those living miles from the ocean at risk. Extreme weather events triggered by air pollution also overwhelm the area's aging sewage and storm infrastructure.

Why is this sewage crisis concerning?

Exposure to contaminated water, air, and soil poses major health hazards. The report highlights risks like the spread of antibiotic-resistant E. coli and Legionella, per the Guardian, as well as illnesses like tuberculosis that have nearly been eradicated in the U.S.

The sewage also contains banned pesticides like DDT and heavy metals, likely from industrial runoff. If the crisis continues, it could lead to increased illness, ecosystem damage, and more beach closures that hurt the local economy.

"Everybody who lives here has been affected by it one way or another," said Paloma Aguirre, the mayor of Imperial Beach — a town just north of the Mexican border — according to the Guardian. "This has become a normal thing in our lives. But it should never be normal to anybody."

Researchers called the situation "a pressing public health crisis," per the Guardian.

The pollution threatens marine life, too. Recently, dolphins stranded in San Diego died from sepsis caused by bacteria commonly spread through exposure to fecal matter.

What's being done about the sewage crisis?

Government officials and local advocates are pushing for more federal funding to improve wastewater treatment infrastructure on both sides of the border. Mexico recently broke ground on a new treatment plant, while the U.S. has allocated $300 million to expand an existing facility.

However, experts say over $600 million in investment is needed to tackle this environmental and public health emergency. If you're a California resident, you can help by contacting your representatives to voice support for the additional funding.

"In the history of this issue, we have never had as much attention on it as we have had these past 12 months," Aguirre said. "Is it enough? No."

No one should have to live with the stench of sewage in the air or the fear of getting sick from contaminated water. It's time to treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves.

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