News Feature | December 18, 2019

New North American Trade Deal Provides $300M To Fight Cross-Border Pollution

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


A landmark revamping of the trade bloc agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico — previously known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and recently resigned as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USCMA) — includes significant provisions to protect a particularly stressed cross-border source water body.

“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal includes $300 million in funding to address cross-border pollution in the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego’s congressional delegation announced,” according to ABC 10. “The bulk of the funding would be used to expand and upgrade South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant… The funding would be used to fortify the plant’s water treatment capabilities, allowing it to stanch flows of polluted storm and wastewater into the city.”

The funding will be paid in quarterly installments of $75 million as U.S. EPA grants to its Border Water Infrastructure Program. This should mark a tenfold increase in its funding from fiscal year 2020.

“The USCMA delivers a massive funding investment that can fix the Tijuana River’s sewage spills once and for all,” Representative Scott Peters of San Diego said, per ABC 10. “This funding can stop the environmental crisis that has plagued our community for decades and will improve public health.”

Reports indicate that cross-border pollution from the Tijuana River has negatively impacted U.S. waters for decades and has regularly led San Diego County to close off beach access near its border with Mexico. But, despite this significant provision, not every environmental group is happy with the USCMA overall.

“On behalf of our over 10 million members, we strongly urge you to VOTE NO on the [USMCA],” a group of environmental organizations, including Food and Water Action and Greenpace, wrote to lawmakers, per The Hill. “[The trade agreement] does not even mention climate change, fails to adequately address toxic pollution, includes weak environmental standards and an even weaker enforcement mechanism, supports fossil fuels, and allows oil and gas corporations to challenge climate and environmental protections.”

At the time of this writing, the USCMA is signed but not yet ratified. Assuming it passes through the U.S. House of Representatives, it is expected to be voted upon in the Senate in January 2020.

To read more about how wastewater utilities address pollution, visit Water Online’s Wastewater Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.