Nearly every time it rains, trash, human waste and tires from the hills of Tijuana flow from Mexico into California. Hoping to bring awareness to the problem, environmental groups spend the day cleaning up the Tijuana River Valley.
SAN DIEGO - By noon, the 250 work weary, sweaty volunteers who had come to help make a dent in the trash that litters the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park had filled 2 large trash containers with hundreds of tires and a third with trash. Residents of the Tijuana River Valley and environmentalists said tons of trash is the primary reason for major flooding each winter, and the source for much of San Diego's beach closures. "We have water, very dirty water, polluted water, trash and debris coming across the border from Mexico and littering the valley," said Jay Novak with the Tijuana River Citizen's Council. Novak, who is a surfboard maker and surfs the waters near Imperial Beach, said his business has suffered as a result of constant beach closures. So has his health. He believes an ear infection 13 years ago that ruptured both eardrums happened because he surfed in contaminated water. "I used to go out even when the water was dirty, because my enthusiasm was more than my safety concerns," he said. Now he is involved with a group to help clean up the area. Not a task for the faint of heart. During the 4 hour period volunteers worked, they collected and piled up, by one person's accounting more than 600 tires. Surprisingly, one environmentalist said many of the tires flowing back across the border were once on cars driven on California roadways. "A lot of those tires actually originated in California," said Ben McCue with Wildcoast, an international non-profit environmental organization that works to protect and preserve coastal ecosystems in California and Latin America. "Went over to Mexico, were not disposed of correctly and many came back here." McCue said it is a problem a local senator is attempting to fix. "Senator Ducheny has a tire bill, currently that is in the legislature, it looks like it might have a good chance of passing," he said. "And it will allow the state of California to work with Mexico to break the tire cycle." Until that happens, volunteers will continue to do what they can to lessen the trash load. "We barely even made a dent. There is just tons of tires that have just been through the years built and built up," said Dan Murphy, a volunteer with Surfrider Foundation. "We are basically just touching the surface right now."
Perette Godwin Reporter