Mexican Military Assumes Control of Tijuana Sewage Plant Rehabilitation

In a significant development, the Mexican military has assumed control of the reconstruction efforts for a dysfunctional wastewater treatment plant in Tijuana. This plant has been responsible for polluting the beaches in southern San Diego during the summer months.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has once again turned to the military to undertake a major infrastructure project. This time, it is the construction of a new massive railway called Tren Maya, which will encircle the Yucatan peninsula. Additionally, the military has been entrusted with the task of building a new airport in Mexico City. A project on the list is Punta Bandera, a Tijuana wastewater plant that has been non-functional since at least 2014. This plant releases untreated sewage into the Pacific Ocean, just six miles south of the U.S. border.

Addressing the sewage crisis in Punta Bandera, also referred to as San Antonio de los Buenos, has become an increasingly urgent matter in Tijuana River for the past few decades. A study conducted by Scripps Institution of Oceanography has established a connection between the sewage discharged from a particular plant and the increase in swimmer illnesses during the summer season in Imperial Beach, which is located in the southernmost part of San Diego’s coastline.

Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre expressed optimism about the potential impact of fixing the plant during a forum held by the local League of Women Voters. According to Aguirre, addressing the issue would result in a complete elimination of beach closures during the summer months.

In a recent development, the governor of Baja California, Marina Del Pilar Ávila, expressed her approval of the military takeover. She had previously announced that SEDENA, the Secretary of National Defense, would be assuming control of the project.

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Pilar Ávila expressed confidence in the efforts of SEDENA during a press conference on December 27. She assured the public that the president had instructed them not to worry and that the organization had a track record of accomplishing remarkable feats across the country. According to Ávila, this plant would be no different.

Mexico has committed to allocating $144 million in 2022 as part of a bilateral treaty with the United States. The funds will be used to address the significant issues plaguing Mexico’s wastewater infrastructure, including the critical area of Punta Bandera. Located on a mesa near the coastline, the plant consists of three large ponds containing old wastewater that is regularly discharged into the Pacific Ocean. According to Victor Manuel Barragan, the secretary of water for Pilar Ávila, efforts are underway to drain the lagoons in the state.

During the forum, Maria Elena Giner, the leader of the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, expressed her view that the military takeover was a positive development. She stated that it would provide a more secure source of funding for the rehabilitation of the plant. In 2024, the nation will once again turn its attention to the upcoming presidential election. López Obrador has termed out of the office he assumed in 2018. The individual who assumes office in the upcoming June election has the potential to completely reevaluate their agenda.

According to Giner, the military has estimated that it will take approximately two years to construct the plant. Fernando Aguado, an engineer from SEDENA, has made a commitment to complete the project by September of this year.

A recent military intervention has been carried out in an ongoing effort to address the situation in Punta Bandera. Efforts to establish a partnership between a private Israeli company and the Mexican government to reconstruct the plant faced significant delays over the course of several years. Odis Asversa, a company, aimed to repurpose the wastewater for irrigation in Valle de Guadalupe, known for its renowned vineyards in Baja California.

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