Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Scott Peters (CA-50), Co-Chair of the House Special Operations Forces Caucus, announced U.S. Navy SEAL Captain (Ret.) Dan’l Steward as his guest to the State of the Union address. Capt. Steward, a 20-year Navy veteran, trained in sewage-contaminated waters and was sickened after swimming in these waters both during his military career and in his personal life as a resident of Coronado. He and his wife, Amy Steward, are outspoken activists on the scourge of cross-border water pollution and how it harms our military forces, the local community, and the marine environment. Capt. Steward also recently penned an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, imploring voters to protect democracy from demagogues.


“I am honored to bring Captain Steward to this year’s State of the Union to highlight the desperate need to address cross-border water pollution,” said Rep. Peters. “Sewage-contaminated waters pose a serious health threat to our servicemembers and a national security challenge to us all when training missions need to be delayed, moved, or canceled. There is no one better to speak to this problem than Captain Steward, who represents not only the thousands of servicemembers at risk, but also all San Diegans who breathe in these fumes, swim in these waters, and are sickened. I appreciate the commitment President Biden has shown to address this crisis by requesting the funds required to fix it, and I look forward to his speech.” 


“Cross-border sewage pollution is increasingly impacting SEAL — and other US military — training… and training is inextricably linked to readiness,” said Capt. Steward. “Immediate congressional action is essential to mitigate a crisis endangering US environmental, economic, general health, and national security.”


For decades, San Diego County has experienced increasingly frequent transboundary water pollution at the southern border due to inadequate infrastructure in Baja California. The flows drastically increased in February 2017, when 143 million gallons of sewage spilled into San Diego County in a matter of days. Since then, the problem has worsened and contaminated waters as far north as Coronado, where the Navy conducts initial SEAL training, known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school, and other training. Personnel from the Navy, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and local law enforcement agencies train and operate in these waters as well.


Representative Peters leads the fight to address this challenge in Congress. In December 2023, joined by members of Congress who are former Navy SEALs, he led a request to congressional leaders urging them to include President Biden’s $310 million supplemental budget request to repair the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) in any upcoming funding package. In February of this year, he joined members of the San Diego Congressional delegation to request information from the Navy about the risks posed to Navy operations and personnel by cross-border pollution. In response, for the first time, the Navy acknowledged that, “in-water training evolutions are delayed, moved or canceled to mitigate any potential impact” and that “the Navy does have some concern regarding the amount of sewage and debris that pollutes the south San Diego County coastline, causes erosion, damages natural resources, and impacts the health and well-being of our community.”


Background on Rep. Peters’ work on Cross-Border Pollution:

Representative Peters has, for years, worked to address the cross-border pollution that’s fouling San Diego’s coastal waters, including pushing for additional funding to fix and expand the dilapidated South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP). In October, Rep. Peters led a bipartisan letter to the Department of State demanding a full account of how the SBIWTP fell into such a severe state of disrepair. In September, he proposed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill to boost U.S.- Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Grant Program (BWIP) funding. Additionally, he proposed two amendments to the Fiscal Year 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill (SFOPS) to boost annual construction funding to the USIBWC to $100 million. In August, he led two letters to the Office of Management and Budget and to OMB and the State Department, calling for urgent additional funding to confront this crisis. In July, members of the San Diego congressional delegation requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assist with directing environmental justice funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help stop the flow of pollutants and urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to tour the broken plant. Earlier in July, they sent a letter to President Biden and submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024, calling on the administration to declare this crisis a federal emergency. In June, Rep. Peters led a letter with other members of the San Diego Congressional delegation to the governor of Baja California urging accountability for the Mexican government’s commitments to build wastewater treatment infrastructure. In previous years, Peters along with colleagues, has secured funding, introduced legislationcalled for investigations, and arranged a visit by EPA Administrator Regan in response to the wastewater contamination crisis.