Friends of the Santa Cruz River has been concerned for some time that the binational sewage pipe, the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), could be breached by floods in the Nogales Wash under which it lies. A pipe break would spill raw sewage into the communities of Nogales, Rio Rico, Tubac and further north along the Santa Cruz River. Our warning is encapsulated in a short video we had made and started distributing earlier this year, called “Flirting With Disaster“.
We are sad to say this eventuality has now come to pass. The waters of the Wash and the Santa Cruz River into which it flows are now heavily contaminated. An easy fix is not in sight; and even when repairs to this breach are eventually made, there is a good likelihood that a similar disaster will happen again somewhere else along the 9-mile IOI, possibly even this summer.
Although the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) has developed a plan to insert a resin sleeve into the existing IOI, and FOSCR supports this repair strategy, it will not solve the persistent problem of the location of the IOI.
This binational sewage pipe must be removed from the bed of the Wash if future public health disasters like this one are to be avoided in the future. IOI relocation will not come cheap or easy. However, barring a major overhaul of the entire Nogales Wash watershed (most of which is in Mexico), repeated erosive floods will inevitably threaten the IOI with rupture and thus threaten the health of all Santa Cruz County residents as well as the ecological health of the Santa Cruz River ecosystem. Furthermore, since most of Santa Cruz County’s residents depend for their drinking water on the aquifer that underlies the river, our drinking water supply also faces a long-term and significant threat from repeated discharges of contaminated water into the river.
This is a matter of true national security; if we don’t have clean drinking water and are not protected from public health threats, how secure are we? The IBWC must take responsibility for this border crisis and first, repair the IOI. But second and more importantly, they must get the IOI out of the Nogales Wash.
Flirting With Disaster: Eroding Sewer Pipe Threatens Santa Cruz River
The International Outfall Interceptor (the “IOI”) sewage pipe is in danger of rupturing, spewing raw sewage and industrial waste over the poor border city of Nogales, Arizona, and into the Santa Cruz River watershed. The Federal government needs to fix the problem, caused by years of neglect, overuse, and sediment flows largely from across the border in Nogales, Mexico.
To draw attention to the major international issue, FOSCR has commissioned a video, Flirting With Disaster.”
Binational sewage pipe (“IOI”) through Ambos Nogales needs repair SOON!
If the IOI breaks, the whole population of Nogales, Arizona will be exposed to raw sewage and industrial waste since it is downstream of Nogales, Sonora and the IOI runs right through the city.
Plans are already in place for a partial fix (“cure-in-place pipe”). They only need the funds released to proceed.
Nogales, AZ is a small, poor city that uses only a small part of the IOI and most of sewage in IOI is Mexican.
Nogales, Sonora has serious drainage problems that need IBWC intervention to fix so erosion damage to border infrastructure like the IOI is minimized.
It is the International Boundary and Water Commission’s (IBWC) job to protect our border environment. Congress needs to fund it so it can do its job to protect Americans from real border threats.
How You Can Help:
1. Please share this video with your friends and on social media!
2. Contact these public officials. Feel free to use the “Critical Issues” above as your talking points.
McCain, Flake, McSally Introduce Bill to Unburden Nogales, Arizona From IOI Pipeline Costs
Washington, D.C. March 8, 2017– U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) this week introduced in the Senate the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act, legislation that would transfer the unfair financial burden of maintenance and capital upgrades of the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) sewage pipeline located underneath the Nogales Wash along the Arizona-Mexico border from the city of Nogales, Arizona, to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). Representative Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) also introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Under an existing agreement between the IBWC and Nogales, the city is currently responsible for a disproportionate percentage of the operating costs of the IOI. The Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act would transfer future capital costs to the IBWC while holding the city of Nogales responsible only for its equitable proportion of operation and maintenance costs that would be fairly split based on the city’s average sewage flow.
“At its core, the 1953 financial arrangement between Nogales and IBWC is outdated and unfair,” said Senator McCain. “Nogales residents should not have to pay for runoff and sewage not under their control. Our bill finally brings fairness to the people of Nogales who are dealing with out-of-touch bureaucrats mismanaging this crumbling infrastructure.”
“The burden of wastewater infrastructure operated pursuant to a U.S.-Mexico treaty should not fall disproportionately on the City of Nogales,” said Senator Flake. “This bill resets the cost-share to reflect the proper obligations of the IBWC.”
“Nogales has shouldered an unfair burden in paying for the operation and maintenance of this pipeline for too long,” said Rep. McSally. “I am happy to join Senator McCain today in introducing the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act. This legislation will help address a longstanding problem and I look forward to working alongside him to get this passed through Congress and onto the President’s desk.”
“We are grateful for the tremendous support from Senators McCain and Flake and Congresswoman McSally on this effort,” said Guillermo Valencia, Chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority. “The Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority has for many years advocated for the urgent need to address the issue of the IOI and after trips to Washington, D.C., arranging numerous site visits and meetings with many stakeholders, we are extremely glad to see the Senator take the lead to provide a solution. This is an issue that impacts the quality of life of the residents of Nogales, Arizona. But it also has a direct impact on the lives of the residents of Nogales, Mexico, and the entire Nogales-Tucson corridor. The significance of this legislation cannot be overstated.”