Congresswoman Martha McSally

Representing the 2nd District of Arizona

McSally, McCain, Flake & Grijalva Push for Solution to Nogales Sewage Break

July 27, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Representative Martha McSally (AZ-02) today took steps to address a break in the Nogales International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) pipeline that has left the border community exposed to over 10 million gallons of untreated sewage waste. She joined with Representative Grijalva (AZ-03) and Senators McCain and Flake to urge the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to work with the City of Nogales to resolve the sewage pipeline break.

 “This is a critical issue for residents and businesses of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora. It directly impacts water quality, environmental quality and their quality of life,” said Rep. Martha McSally. “This sewage break did not have to happen. The city, the county, and the state of Arizona have long expressed concern over the management of this pipeline, which is why I have introduced legislation to relieve the city of Nogales from the unfair burden of paying for the operation and maintenance of this pipeline. This break illustrates how important it is to resolve this quickly so that Southern Arizonans are not put at risk again. I applaud Governor Ducey for acting quickly and providing funds to address this emergency.”

“As lawmakers, one of our most basic responsibilities to our constituents is to promote their welfare and protect their well-being. The emergency situation in Nogales merits immediate action as it has now escalated to a level where the health and safety of its citizens are at risk. I join my colleague, Rep. McSally in calling for the International Boundary and Water Commission to quickly repair the IOI pipeline, take precautions to prevent future breaks, and immediately protect public health,” said Rep. Grijalva.

The Nogales International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) is the main pipeline that delivers over 10 million gallons of untreated sewage waste to the Nogales International Sanitation Project. Roughly ten million gallons of sewage waste flow across the border from Mexico for treatment. In March, Congresswoman McSally introduced bipartisan legislation, the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act, to reduce the financial burden on Nogales associated with the cost of maintaining and operating the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI).

Today, the lawmakers sent a letter to IBWC urging action and answers to their questions regarding the cause of the break, the long term solution, and any subsequent public health risks.

In the letter, the lawmakers write that “the IBWC has an obligation to manage international infrastructure negotiations and operate the Nogales International Sanitation Project, and we seek guidance from your agency on what led to this issue and the next steps in managing the situation. The critical nature and proximity to the City of Nogales make this break a matter of urgent concern and we hope to receive prompt answers to our questions.”

Congresswoman McSally also called IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina today to learn more about action the agency is taking to address the problem and discuss long term solutions to maintain the pipeline and prevent future leaks.

A PFD of the letter can be viewed HERE. The full letter is below.

 

 

July 27, 2017

 

 

 

Mr. Edward Drusina
Commissioner
International Boundary and Water Commission
U.S. Section
4147 North Mesa, Suite C-100
El Paso, Texas 79902

 

Dear Mr. Drusina,

 

We write to you concerning the news of a dangerous break in the Nogales International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), the main pipeline that delivers sewage waste to the Nogales International Sanitation Project. We fear that the breach, which leaves the Potrero Creek vulnerable to over 10 million gallons of untreated sewage flowing through this pipeline every day, poses a hazard to the countless communities that live downstream of the pipeline. Consequently, the lack of cooperation and consensus between federal government and state and local officials could have widespread implications on the welfare and safety of Nogales’ citizens.

 

The city, the county, and the State of Arizona have long expressed concern to us over the management of this pipeline. We introduced legislation again this year, the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act, which would transfer the unfair financial burden of maintenance and capital upgrades of the IOI pipeline from the City of Nogales, Arizona to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). Given that the IBWC has an obligation to manage international infrastructure negotiations and operate the Nogales International Sanitation Project, we seek guidance from your agency on what led to this break and the next steps in managing the situation.

 

The break’s critical nature and proximity to the City of Nogales make it a matter of urgent concern, so we hope to receive prompt answers to our questions. We would like an answer to the following questions as soon as possible:

 

  1. What was the cause of the breakage, and what could have been done to avoid such breakage from occurring?

 

  1. What are the next steps for the IBWC in response to this event?

 

  1. Has this breakage put the citizens of Nogales at a health and safety risk?

 

  1. Given the critical nature of this infrastructure to both the City of Nogales, Arizona and the City of Nogales, Sonora, what role does the IBWC have to play in the management and maintenance of this pipeline?

 

  1. What emergency management plan does the IBWC have in place in order to address situations such as this?

 

  1. How has the IBWC worked with the City of Nogales, Arizona in an effort to respond to this emergency and mitigate risk for such events happening again?

 

  1. What steps are being taken to ensure that a break such as this does not occur again?

 

We look forward to working with the City of Nogales, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), and our colleagues in Congress to quickly repair the IOI pipeline and move legislation that prevents such breaks from occurring in the future.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

__________________________                                __________________________

John McCain                                                               Jeff Flake

United States Senator                                                 United States Senator

 

 

 

__________________________                                __________________________

Martha McSally                                                          Raúl Grijalva

United States Representative                                     United States Representative