One Man’s Waste Tires, Another Man’s Home

On April 12, San Diego Coastkeeper went on a Tijuana border tour led by WiLDCOAST’s Serge Dedina and Paloma Aguirre. The story of the day was the 2 million gallon sewage spill that flowed from the Tijuana River to Imperial Beach. Government failed to promptly notify the public and as result, surfers and swimmers were using the water for almost a week before they became aware that the waters were tainted by sewage.

“It’s bad enough to have polluted water,” Serge said, “it’s worse when federal and international agencies don’t do their job.”


The Hormiguita Community Center made from 450 waste tires

As Rob Davis noted in a Voice of San Diego piece, “The incident is just one symptom of a major pollution problem that has plagued San Diego’s coast for decades, one that was supposed to have been fixed 15 years ago but that’s been dragged down by missed deadlines, bureaucratic bungling and local infighting.”

Everywhere we went in Tijuana we saw waste tires. Waste tires are not only a huge problem for those living in Tijuana, but waste tires also have significant health, environment and economic impacts on this side of the border. When it rains trash, sewage and tires from Tijuana flow from Mexico across the border into the United States. Waste tire cleanups are a constant on both sides of the border. For example, in a recent cleanup at the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park volunteers collected more than 600 tires in a four hour period. Wildcoast’s Ben McCue noted, “A lot of those tires actually originated in California. (The tires) went over to Mexico, were not disposed of correctly and many came back here.” This is not the kind of recycling story any of us want to hear.

In Tijuana’s Laureles Canyon we had the opportunity to see the impact an organization like Wildcoast can have on a community. Through the efforts of Paloma Aguirre and Wildcoast locals are not only working to rid the community of trash and tires, but community members are actually policing the area and serving notice to would be dumpsters that such conduct will not be tolerated. But best of all is found up on top of one of the Laureles Canyon hills where Four Walls International, Wildcoast, Tijuana Calidad De Vida and Tijuana Estuary partnered on building a green community center made of 450 waste tires and other trash. The plan is to use the same construction to build homes in Laureles Canyon. This collaboration also trains residents on how to manage trash and human waste.

Bravo! It’s really simple: find an environmental harm and fix the problem. Perfect solution? No, but it is a step in the right direction. That’s what the hokey pokey is all about!



San Diego Coastkeeper Jo Brooks (board), Jill Witkowski and Gale Filter and Steve Wright of 4 Walls.



Horse, Tires and Trash across from the Hormiguita Community Center.