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Residents in the Cañón de la Pedrera neighborhood of Tijuana about six miles south of the border are complaining about a putrid odor that is so strong some days it has made a few neighbors feel ill.

“Yes, it smells horrible all the time — sometimes it’s stronger and other times less, but it always smells,” said Daniel Ruelas, the president of the Comité de Vecinos, or neighbors’ committee.

The smell has lasted for weeks and seems to be coming from a nearby concrete channel where some residents appear to have built their own makeshift drainage system to dump their waste water into.

“We have seen that many houses that have access to the canal throw their drainage directly into the canal because they have no connection to the municipal drainage system,” said Ruelas. “Sometimes it smells like industrial waste, like solvents or chemicals. … Usually the smell is sewage.”

Residents of Cañón de la Pedrera complain of putrid smells

Residents of Cañón de la Pedrera complain of putrid smells coming from the canal that flows through the neighborhood.

(Alejandro Tamayo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)


Ruelas said he’s been unable to get the attention of city or state officials to address the issue or identify the cause of the extraordinary stench.

“We have filed complaints, but they send us from one agency to another. We have not yet had an accurate answer. We’re about to submit a request to the public works department, which is where we were last directed,” he said.

A spokesman for the Tijuana mayor said the city is unable to intervene when residents drain their waste water into nearby canals. The spokesman said the issue is the responsibility of the state water agency, the Comisión Estatal de Servicios Públicos de Tijuana, or CESPT. A spokesperson for the CESPT did not respond to a request for comment.

Ruelas said the city should be responsible for cleaning out smaller storm drains that eventually filter into the Tijuana River canal. That water flows down the river and eventually ends up in the Pacific Ocean.

“Along the canal there are several smaller drains, which the City Council used to clean every year, so that dirt and debris that clog the water would not accumulate,” said Ruelas. “But now it has been more than one year since these drainages have been cleaned, and that makes it smell stronger. Every day the filth continues to accumulate.”

An abandoned car in the Canon de la Pierdera in Tijuana

An abandoned car in the Cañón de la Pedrera illustrates the problem of water-drainage pollution in rapidly growing Tijuana.

((Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune) )

Ruelas said the situation has almost become unbearable.

“We can no longer have the windows open in our house because the smell permeates into the furniture and our clothes. What was a storm channel has become a sewage channel,” he said.

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