South Bay Clean Water Movement

Postcards colored and written by children were ready to be delivered to elected officials recently. The South Bay Clean Water Movement has started a letter writing campaign to raise awareness of the sewage spills.

A group of moms who want to see change have created a group to address the sewage problems that have plagued the city for decades. It was the last sewage spill coming from Mexico that tipped the scale at 230 million gallons and ended March 1 that made the women take action.

The South Bay Clean Water Movement started a letter writing campaign to their elected officials to ask for action and change. The group has collected between 1,500 and 2,000 letter and postcards which have been hand delivered to the offices of Representative Scott Peters, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Harris. More letters will be delivered to Gov. Gary Grown’s office in Sacramento soon. “We have identified our representatives. We are now working on connections. We are represented by Democrats - that poses a problem because they don’t have as big of a voice,” said Bethany Case, one of the moms in the group.

“But we are asking them to reach out to their counterparts to help,” added Melissa Bowlby. 

On the day of this interview Case and another mom, Steph Pate, were on their way to deliver 100 letters and 300 postcards from nine schools in the district to Juan Vargas’ office and meet with a staffer. “We have over 1,000 letters that have not been delivered yet,” said Case.

Most of the women in the group have young children and met through Stroller Strides while others like Bowlby have teenagers. “Unbeknownst to me what the group was doing I sent a letter to Poisedon Academy at Mar Vista High School asking them to get involved. I then saw [The South Bay Clean Water Movement’s] Facebook page and got connected,” she explained.

The group was created when Molly Goforth decided to invite some people to go for a walk at the Estuary on the Saturday of President’s Day weekend. “We walked down and we said ‘Wow this is worse than I thought.’ I was shocked at how much debris there was because of the storm and the smell. That’s why we had gone originally gone on the walk. We met at the south end of Seacoast Drive, walked down to the river mouth. It was mostly families and dogs,” said Case. At the end of the walk the group gathered asking, “What are we going to do now?” 

“We decided to had to tell our representatives and get to the bottom of it,” said Case.

“Many of them are third and fourth generation IB families and have a vested interest, and have been dealing with [sewage problems] for so long,” said Bowlby who moved to town four years ago. 

The first action the group decided to take was to attend the International Water Boundary Commission meeting at the beginning of March. Before the meeting started the group had a table and invited attendees to write letters to their elected officials to express their unhappiness with the sewage spill. A few days later the group set up a table at the pier on a Sunday and once again provided an opportunity for residents to write to their elected officials. An artist created postcards for children so they too could write to the politicians. Since then the group has held more letter writing campaigns including one at Emerald City surf shop in Coronado. Case said many have told her they are glad the group is there raising awareness and making it easy to participate.

“It’s easy to say ‘I should [write a letter to my elected official]’ but here is a letter pencil and address,” said Bowlby.  

The group is worried about the future of the Tijuana River Valley and the beach. “It’s a cross border issue. What we need is the county to step in, but they have been MIA,” said Case. “It’s not just trash [coming from across the border.] The sewage that comes down [from Tijuana] and is not treated it’s more concentrated than the U.S.”

Case discussed the issue of a new housing development recently built in Tijuana that is not connected to the sewage system. An issue Mayor Serge Dedina has also brought up during the last city council meeting. Case and the others are worried about what the sewage is doing to our environment. “Now it’s in the ground water. Horses who live in the river valley and the vegetables we eat that come from that area are contaminated. We are consuming disease. I’m concerned about the health of our neighbors to the east of us,” she said.

Since the sewage spill Bowlby has not allowed her kids to go to the beach and they had to spend their Spring Break out of the water. “I wouldn’t let my kids go to the sand - which has 100 times more bacteria than the water even when the signs went down,” she said. 

South Bay Clean Water Movement has organized a march that will take place April 29 at 3 p.m. with residents of Imperial Beach and Coronado participating. Coronado residents will start the march at Third Street and Palm Avenue and the Imperial Beach residents at 3rd Street and Imperial Beach Boulevard and meet in the middle.

“It’s a symbolic march. We’re not stopping. You’ll hear from us. It’s a family oriented event not violent protest. That’s not what we’re all about. We’ll have dogs, kids and strollers. Come and show your support,” said Case. 

“As families we’re impacted [by the spill]. There is an economic issue … property values and health issues - which is our number one concern,” said Bowlby.

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