Imperial Beach, CA – The LA Times reports that an increasing number of U.S. Border Patrol agents at the Imperial Beach station have reported a host of health problems since February when an estimated 143 million gallons of Mexican sewage spilled into the Tijuana River Valley they patrol.
Chris Harris, a union representative for National Border Patrol Council’s Local 1613, said that in June, more than 30 agents had reported sewage-related illnesses. Since then, that number has nearly tripled, to at least 83 agents.
Michael Scappechio, a spokesman with the U.S. Border Patrol, said that common reported acute injuries have ranged from upper-respiratory ailments to burns on extremities. Personnel have also reported damage to boots and gloves while performing their duties.
The Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station has about 300 employees who patrol the U.S.-Mexico border from the Pacific Ocean through the Tijuana River Valley. Some work on foot, some in ATVs or SUVs, others on horseback.
The sewage leak in February and subsequent leaks flowed into the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, which covers 71.5 miles of dirt roads and paths.
Tijuana’s population – which officially stands at 1.56 million, but unofficially may be as high as 2 million – has outpaced the city’s ability to provide adequate and updated sewage infrastructure. As a consequence, sewage spills occur frequently.