U.S. SENATE – Today, U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to relieve the City of Nogales, AZ of any financial responsibility for the pipeline between the Nogales, Sonora wastewater collection system and the wastewater treatment plant in Rio Rico, Arizona. McSally’s bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-3) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-2).
The Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act would ensure the City of Nogales only be charged for the operation and maintenance costs based on the average daily wastewater originating from the City. The pipeline, the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), is the infrastructure that treats waste from both Sonora and Arizona.
“It is unacceptable to expect the City of Nogales and its residents’ foot the bill for sewage and runoff that frankly, doesn’t belong to them,” said McSally. “I introduced legislation when I was in the House to remedy this issue, and I am proud to continue to lead this effort to put forth a long-term solution for the City of Nogales.”
“We are bringing fairness to the people of Nogales by making sure they’re no longer forced to pay for Mexico’s sewage costs. Our commonsense legislation protects Nogales taxpayers by fixing the outdated financial agreement over this pipeline,” said Sinema.
“After years of neglecting much-needed repairs, the periodic leaks and overflows of the IOI continue to threaten the public health of Nogales and the surrounding areas,” said Grijalva. “This bill will address the aging infrastructure and safeguard the health and well-being of Nogales residents. After tirelessly working to secure funding for this project since 2003, I’m proud that Congress is finally taking the necessary steps to fix this urgent issue so that the people of Nogales need not worry about contaminants and pollutants in their water.”
“Nogales has carried the burden of the broken pipeline for far too long. The bad sewage has not only harmed the water and environmental quality in Southern Arizona, but has also left the City of Nogales with an unfair financial and administrative burden,” said Kirkpatrick. “I’m proud to work alongside my colleagues to ensure that the allocation of costs are distributed fairly and operational responsibilities are accurately distributed.”
The City of Nogales has continually tried to seek federal funds and additional ownership responsibility from the IBWC for decades. Intake of untreated sewage at the treatment plant in Rio Rico shows that, on average only 8 percent of the sewage comes from the Arizona side, with the rest originating in Mexico.
Local community leaders agree—the City of Nogales needs the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act:
City of Nogales, AZ Mayor Arturo Garino: “The Introduction of the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act is great news for the ratepayers of the City of Nogales,” said “on behalf of the City of Nogales I would like to thank Senator Sinema and McSally as well as Congressman Grijalva and Kirkpatrick for their support and efforts. No longer will the residents of Nogales Arizona have to pay for the treatment of Mexican Sewage.”
Supervisor Bruce Bracker of Santa Cruz County: “We are in full support of the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act. We have been advocating for a long term solution to this problem and it is clear that local governments simply don’t have the resources to address what is a federal and an international issue. We can’t thank Senators McSally and Sinema and Representatives Grijalva and Kirkpatrick enough for taking on this critical issue.”
Olivia Ainza-Kramer, President & CEO, Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce: “On behalf of the Nogales Chamber of Commerce, the business community and residents, we would like to thank Senator McSally, Senator Sinema, Congressman Grijalva, and Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for introducing the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act, and for their continuous support to Nogales and Santa Cruz County.”
Sonia Perillo, Executive Director of Audubon Arizona, the state office for National Audubon Society: “The Upper Santa Cruz River supports a thriving riverside corridor and is designated an Important Bird Area. The area is recognized for the diversity of birds it supports, thanks mainly to the flowing river sustained by purified wastewater from both Mexico and the United States. We are grateful to Senator McSally for introducing this important legislation, and for the support of Senator Sinema, Representative Grijalva, and Representative Kirkpatrick. Their leadership on this legislation is important for southern Arizona communities, as well as for birds and other wildlife that depend on a healthy and flowing Santa Cruz River.”
Misael Cabrera, Director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ): “We are pleased by the introduction of the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act and thank Senators McSally and Sinema and Representatives Grijalva and Kirkpatrick for their leadership. We encourage Congress to support this legislation to authorize the International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC) to own and operate the IOI.”
In February 2019, McSally met with the new U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary & Water Commission Jayne Harkins.
In September 2017, McSally toured the sewage spill in Naco.
In July 2017, McSally, Grijalva, McCain, and Flake wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), asking what the IBWC’s plans are to address a dangerous break in the Nogales International Outfall Interceptor.
In March 2017, McSally, Grijalva, McCain, and Flake introduced the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act which would help the city of Nogales avoid a $40 million repair bill for a cross-border sewage pipeline.
Full text of the bill can be found HERE.