Binational pipeline legislation passed in House, moves on to Senate

Congress recently passed the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act, a bipartisan-led push by four members of Arizona’s delegation including U.S. Sen. McSally and three Democrats, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D), and Reps. Raul Grijalva (D) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D). 

The city of Nogales, Arizona, has been footing a large portion of the bill to repair the binational pipeline that connects to Nogales, Sonora, but the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act would amend that and make things even across the board. The funding amendment was introduced by Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona’s third district.

The legislation would redirect $4 million of the International Boundary and Water Commission’s budget to the maintenance and operation of the International Outfall Interceptor, or IOI, which moves the wastewater along from the two border towns to a treatment plant in Rio Rico.

“Due to the aging infrastructure and neglected repairs of the IOI, the people of Southern Arizona live under the constant threat of water contamination,” Rep. Grijalva said in a statement. “By clarifying responsibility with this amendment, the IBWC would finally be able to move forward with the necessary repairs, fix this problem once and for all, and ensure that we have a real solution to protect the public health of the people along the U.S.-Mexico border.”

When the original legislation was written, Nogales, Sonora, was nowhere near its current population of 200,000 people. Nogales, Arizona, on the other hand, is still hovering around 20,000, a tenth of its Mexican counterpart. Yet, the Arizona version of Nogales is paying much more than its share of wastewater it uses and treats.

“I’m proud of the stakeholders, advocates, and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who have worked on this issue for decades and helped fight to safeguard the public health of Nogales residents,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Now the Senate must act to ensure this funding dedicated to the purpose of clarifying responsibility for the IOI is included in any funding bill they pass.”

When it comes to the Fairness Act, it was originally adopted to reduce Nogales, Arizona’s share of the cost burden. Since the town only contributes about 8 percent of the sewage treated at the plant in Rio Rico, it’s a no-brainer that the local communities shouldn’t have to pay what Nogales, Sonora pays.

The current sewer line moves more than 10 million gallons of water each day from Nogales, Sonora, through the Arizona side of the border, and on to Rio Rico.

Nick Esquer

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