EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors adopted the proclamation of the existence of a local emergency in Imperial County for air pollution at the New River, Tuesday, November 5. The proclamation stated the supervisors’ concern regarding the extreme health hazard of the New River.
In October, the board sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, inviting him to tour the New River and southern border community. The letter urged him to take a leadership role in addressing the pollution, similar to his role with the Tijuana River in San Diego County.
“We would like to show you the conditions that we live in," the letter said, "due to the lack of action taken by the federal government to address the pollution, raw sewage, and other contaminants that are being discharged into the New River by Mexico.”
Caused by bypasses of raw sewage and other harmful pollutants originating from Mexico, the New River poses extreme dangers to the health, safety, and welfare of Imperial County residents, according to the proclamation.
Residents, workers, and visitors are exposed to toxic substances and pathogens, including salmonella, E.coli, streptococcus, hepatitis, and other health risks. The frequency and severity of these bypasses are due to the failed Mexicali sewer infrastructure. According to the proclamation, there is currently no plan of action by the International Boundary and Water Commission to address the threats posed by the New River.
According to county CEO Tony Rohoutas, the fecal coliform samples taken from the New River have exceeded 160,000 most probable number per 100 milliliters, meaning the number of viable microorganisms found in the New River are exponential.
Due to the peril to human life and the crisis being beyond Imperial County’s control, the New River has been declared a local emergency, according to Rohoutas.
Copies of the proclamation will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom with the request that he proclaim a state of emergency exists in Imperial County. If Newsom agrees with the proclamation, the state of California will be responsible for addressing the issues of the New River.