Repairs set for large sewage pipe from Mexico into the United States

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Once again, a section of the pipe that carries millions of gallons of raw sewage from Mexico to the United States underneath the Nogales Wash is exposed, and runs the risk of rupturing.  The risk is greatest during monsoon floods.  If that happened, sewage could run into the Santa Cruz River and head north toward Tucson.

"Oh, it's 50-50, it's a border town. You live on both sides, you get the best of both," said Nogales, Arizona resident Mario Alcaraz.

But Alcaraz has smelled how something other than the best flows downhill, from Mexico into the United States, where it's treated.

"We did worry, last year, because it smelled kind of weird," Alcaraz chuckled.

"We can get it done before we have an incident, because those costs will be multitudes of order greater," said Ben Lomeli, co-chair of the southeast Arizona citizens' forum for the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The decades-old pipe carries about ten million gallons of raw sewage a day.  On Thursday night, the forum discussed the upcoming repair to the pipe.  But the bigger picture, completely moving it somewhere safer and building it stronger, could cost an estimated $60 million that local governments don't have to spend.  The forum urges local governments to work together to lobby Congress for the needed funding.

"I think people in Tucson should be concerned about this and every point in between because the flows and the contamination would certainly reach that far along the whole Santa Cruz River," Lomeli said.

"There are some issues with the pipe," said IBWC engineer Gabriel Duran.  "It's 40 years old now, there are some places where definite improvements would improve its efficiency so we do need to do that."

The repair to the exposed section of pipe should start before the end of the month and last for two weeks.

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