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New project aims to fix Mexican sewage leaking into Nogales Wash

Nogales mayor calls the repairs a band-aid approach
Mexican Sewage Nogales Wash
Posted at 4:19 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 21:17:55-05

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — It’s a health hazard that runs right through the heart of Nogales—-but now work is getting started to stop the problem. It’s a fix for a huge sewer line with a history of terrible leaks.

There is trouble under the Nogales Wash. An old sewage line brings millions of gallons of sewage from Mexico. It’s prone to break and it causes terrible environmental problems. But now, officials are celebrating an effort to fix it.

RELATED: International sewage solution for Nogales

When the monsoon hits, and the Nogales Wash runs hard, a lot of the water can be raw sewage from a crumbling pipe under the wash.

The wash runs just a few feet from MIke’s Auto Glass.

Miguel Rangel says, “In the summer a little bit, down the wash right there. They get all these smells and everything. In the summer when it brews apparently, it gets really unbearable, but for the most part. It is what it is. You get used to it. That’s a bad thing.”

Reporter Craig Smith asked: “Yeah, but should you have to get used to it?”

Miguel: “You shouldn't get used to it. It should be fixed.”

The pipeline carries sewage from Nogales, Sonora, flows across the border, combines with sewage from Nogales Arizona, and ends up in a treatment plant in Rio Rico.

The pipeline is more than 50 years old

The International Boundary and Water Commission, a joint effort of the U.S. and Mexican governments, operates the system and covers the cost. Now with money from the U.S. Congress, Mexico, the State of Arizona and the foundation from Freeport McMoRan Copper, the commission is repairing the pipe—-lining the aging pipeline with plastic to seal out the leaks.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino has been fighting pipeline problems for more than 20 years. First as Nogales Public Works Director, and later as Mayor.

He says the plan to line the pipe should help but not help enough.

“It's a band aid, Band Aid all it is is going to reline on the inside of the line. That is not going to help the capacity. It is not going to help anything. It's just going to help the infiltration and exfiltration of raw sewage or water from the surface from the groundwater going into it.”

Mayor Garino wants all new, larger pipe, and wants it out from under the wash.

At Mike’s Auto Glass, Miguel Rangel agrees with the Mayor that some fix is better than no fix but also thinks the real long term solution would be new, bigger pipe, away from the Nogales Wash.

IBWC Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner says a new pipe positioned away from the Nogales Wash is the preferred option but lining existing pipe is what the Commission Is able to do now while it working towards other solutions for the future.