Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today released the following statement regarding the break of the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), a major sewage line that runs from Nogales, Sonora under the Nogales Wash to a treatment plant in Rio Rico, Ariz. The break occurred late yesterday, and the causes are still being investigated.
“This is a perfect example of why we need to make infrastructure investments in this country a priority. The fear of a break like this one has existed for a long time, and my office has been closely monitoring the situation for years. I’ve requested appropriations multiple times to fix the pipe, which is about fifty years old and was never designed to handle its current daily volume, and my office has been in regular contact with officials at multiple levels to discuss improvement projects and mitigation strategies. I’ve always supported a long-term solution to this very old problem, and hopefully this will bring attention to how seriously we need to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure in Southern Arizona and around the country.”
Grijalva and his staff have met with the International Boundary and Water Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Nogales and officials with Santa Cruz County to discuss how best to upgrade the IOI. Grijalva requested $10 million for the project in fiscal year 2009 and $19.7 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
As the Nogales International has reported, the line has been facing problems for many years:
The line was designed to handle about 9.9 million gallons of sewage per day. On average, between 10 million and 12 million gallons goes through the line daily, said Hugh Holub, acting utilities director for the City of Nogales.
“This is pressurizing the line and causing manhole covers to pop right off,” he said.
Compounding the problem is that during the rainy season Nogales, Sonora manholes are often opened up to allow storm water to run off into the system, Holub said.
There have been readings of up to 30 million gallons per day during the monsoons, he said.
Grijalva pointed out that if Mexican authorities temporarily shut down the flow to investigate and clean up the damage that has already occurred, an overflow will likely occur further up the pipe system and could spill into the United States. He called on Mexican and American authorities to work together to repair the damage “as quickly and thoroughly as possible” to avoid potential health risks and property damage.