Arizona's 2 senators join fight over international sewer line - Tucson News Now

Arizona's 2 senators join fight over international sewer line

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NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

As we get closer to the monsoon rains, the international sewage line that runs under the border, through Nogales is once again a concern.

Now Arizona's two senators are demanding action to deal with the pipeline, called the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI).

The IOI runs under the border, just west of the Morley Gate Port of Entry at Nogales.

It carries raw sewage from Mexico into Nogales, Arizona.

Now the long-brewing issue over it might finally be solved because a of the senators' letter.

We've seen what happens when the sewage line from Mexico to the United States is overwhelmed.

Contaminated water flows north, over the border, causing huge headaches for the city of Nogales.

It happens regularly.

Everyone agrees, the line that runs under the Nogales Wash through the heart of the city needs upgrades, rehabilitation.

But roadblocks have backed things up.

The hope is that things might change now. 

"Now Senator McCain and Senator Flake are in this. I am so happy to see that," says Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino.

He also commends Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva and Governor Jan Brewer for their support.

The letter from Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake to the U.S. State Department demands action.

Garino says things get worse during the summer monsoon storms when rainfall puts even greater pressure on the IOI.

He says a break in the line could be devastating, sending sewage and other contaminants all the way to Tucson.

Garino describes what could happen.

"It's in the Santa Cruz River. It's gone through Tubac, Rio Rico and to Tucson. I don't know exactly what the extent of the contamination would be, but it would probably contaminate wells. It would contaminate the surface water. There would be a major clean up. Is that what we're waiting for?" Garino asks.

Garino says the entire sewer line has to be made larger and should be moved out from under the Nogales Wash.

He says the problem is only getting worse as Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, continues to grow.

The State Department agency that oversees the IOI is the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC).

The IBWC is demanding that Nogales, Arizona, pay half the cost of improving the pipeline.

Garino says the city doesn't have $15 million dollars to spend on that, but that that's not the issue.

"The way I look at it, if the flow comes from Mexico, it's international. It shouldn't be the taxpayers of Nogales or the taxpayers of the state of Arizona paying for this.  It should be the federal government," Garino says.

He adds that if the federal government wants Nogales to pay for the share of the pipeline it uses, the city can look into doing that.

Garino says his city of 20,000 people puts three to four million gallons of sewage a day into the pipeline.

It's allowed seven millions gallons a day.

He says Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, with a population of almost half a million people sends 10 to 12 million gallons of sewage a day into the pipeline.

Garino says that increases to about 17 million gallons a day during summer monsoon storms when Mexican authorities allow rain runoff to flood into the sewer line. 

An IBWC spokesperson says the State Department is preparing a response to the senators' letter.

Attached is the full letter from Senators McCain and Flake to the State Department.

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