Direct threat of sewage leak adverted for Cochise County residents

NACO, Ariz. - A state of emergency has been declared in Naco. This follows the huge leak of raw sewage from Mexico onto U.S. soil on September 9th.

About 682,000 gallons were released on the first day of the leak. But since then, a total close to 5-million gallons have been spilled.

"Although the flow of the material is still coming in, it's not directly impacting the residents because its not going to get to the occupied areas. But it is sill going into private property and county property off to the west. That has since been flowing across the border into the U.S. into Greenbush Draw," said Gabe Lavine, the Cochise County Emergency Services Manager.

This month's leak is part of an issue, officials and residents say, has been going on for 40 years. Tom Thompson owns five acres of land along the border and was at tonight's meeting to know if something will finally change.

"I've got tenants that i rent my land out to, if they're not healthy its not going to do me any good either. Its polluting m wash, that's what I'm concerned about," said Thompson.

This public meeting was full of concerned people saying they are tired of being told the same thing over and over again.

"And how long is the  bureaucracy going to take with this? how many gallons are crossing over everyday? are you going to tel me they're going to fix it in a month? Two months? Divert it to them. So that they can get the message of the seriousness of the problem," said another man at the meeting.

By declaring a state of emergency, Cochise County is hoping the attention on this leak can get several agencies on both sides of the boarder to act swiftly.

Repairs are expected to begin within the next 8 weeks. The spillage by that point is expected to be 18 million gallons.

Southwest Utility is responsible for area's water and reports that the drinking water is safe. A representative at the meeting said they are confident the water is safe to drink and will continue to be.

Public health officials are continuing to urge people to keep children and pets away from exposed areas. The county board of supervisors said the still water to the south has evaporated, but the threat of exposure is still there. For example, pets could be exposed and bring an airborne disease home.

A free vaccination clinic for adults will be held at the Naco Fie District September 28 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Vaccinations for HepA, HepB and Tetanus will be available. A free clinic for children is being prepared for the following week.

A public bilingual hotline will be available next week for you to report any public health concerns. Visit the county's Facebook page for updates.

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