Press Release

Senator Padilla Introduces Resolution Urging CDC to Investigate Sewage Crisis

SACRAMENTO –Yesterday, Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 18, which urges the Center for Disease Control to conduct an investigation into the health impacts surrounding the ongoing pollution crisis in the Tijuana River.

For decades, the Tijuana River has been contaminated with billions of gallons of trash, sediment, and wastewater as a result of sewage infrastructure inadequacies has created recurring and worsening pollution problems for the County of San Diego and the southern California coastline.

Just this past January, a storm surge caused 14.5 billion gallons of raw sewage and pollution to wash up on the banks of the River as well as overflow into the nearby coastal wetlands, one of the few remaining such ecosystems left in Southern California.

Last April, the Tijuana River Watershed was named in the 10 most endangered rivers in America, a list managed by environmental organization, American Rivers. The designation comes from an analysis of the hazardous industrial waste and raw sewage contaminating the River.

Communities near the pollution have reported headaches, chronic coughs, diarrhea, vomiting and other symptoms, particularly after heavy rains when more sewage is forced through the riverbed. Research by the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography attributed 34,000 annual illnesses in 2017 to water quality pollution along the City of Imperial Beach coastline and linked up to 76 percent of bacteria nearby air to cross-border water pollution.

“Our communities are being poisoned by this unending flow of sewage and it has been happening for generations,” said Senator Padilla. “We need the highest levels of government to investigate the health concerns residents face, so we can get them the treatments options that they need. It is unacceptable that this has gone ignored as illnesses only continue to rise.”

Several local environmental organizations spoke in support of the resolution.

"San Diego Coastkeeper strongly supports Senator Padilla's resolution, and urges his fellow Senators to vote in support of this critically needed action," said Phillip Musegaas, Executive Director of San Diego Coastkeeper. "Residents of San Diego's border communities have borne the burden of water and air pollution from the Tijuana River sewage crisis for generations - in light of the growing evidence of acute and chronic health impacts from this crisis, it is imperative that the CDC steps in and works with the County Health Department and independent researchers to determine the full scope of this public health crisis."

“As a society, we simply do not have the time to waste on inaction that leads to disproportionate impacts on our Southern San Diego binational region communities' health and wellbeing,” said Ali Mariko Dressel, Climate Justice Policy Coordinator, Climate Action Campaign. “At Climate Action Campaign, we strive to ensure that communities thrive by creating a healthy, resilient, and zero carbon future through effective and equitable policy. We wholeheartedly support Senator Padilla's resolution calling for the CDC to investigate the pollution consequences of a long legacy of environmental injustice.”

In December, Senator Padilla, chair of the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation and Dialogue, held a hearing to listen to federal officials, experts, local elected representatives, and the public about the efforts to address cross-border pollution.

Senator Padilla is also the author of Senate Bills 1178 and 1208, which address corporate pollution poisoning California waters as well as halt the development of a landfill that would only further pollute the Tijuana River Watershed. The California State Senate recently approved both bills.


Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: