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Flooding with a chance of sewage?

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Flooding with a chance of sewage?

CREATED Jul 5, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV)  - In Nogales, summer rains make people worry about something nastier than simple flooding. They worry about the chance of a huge sewage spill.

The Nogales Wash has a large sewer line under it. The walls and floor of the wash are in such bad shape erosion could break the line and spread sewage for miles to the north.  9 Wants To Know, who can fix the problem and when?

A typical storm can change the Nogales Wash, from a quiet trickle, to a swirling muddy mess with tons of water tearing at the walls and threatening to climb over the walls and into the neighborhood.

 Antonio Gonzales has had some close calls at his flower shop.

 He says, “It hit the door.” 

KGUN 9 reporter Craig Smith: “The door, so it gets close?” 

Gonzales: It gets very close, yes.  If there’s a flood that side I know I’m gonna get water here.”

There’s an extra worry with every flood.  Because there’s an old, overloaded sewer line bringing sewage from Mexico under that wash.

As the monsoon water rushes through the wash it can work its way through the cracks in the concrete, then it can dig and dig and dig and dig through the underlying dirt until it threatens that sewer pipe.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino says if there’s a break, raw sewage could mix with monsoon flood water and spread contamination for miles before anyone would know.

”If we were to have a rupture when the flood is up or the wash is up we won’t know about that rupture until the water recedes.  Then by then we have all this water flowing all the way to Pima County on the Santa Cruz River contaminating the aquifers, contaminating all the wells.”

Even though it’s a long standing problem for Nogales, the Mayor says Nogales can’t fix it.

Craig Smith asked: “Whose responsibility is it to fix it?” 

Garino:  Actually the responsibility to fix that is IBWC.”

That’s the International Boundary and Water Commission, a Federal agency.  Because sewage and flood water are flowing from Mexico, it’s a Federal case.

IWBC headquarters is in El Paso, Texas.  When we tried to get the commission to explain what it is, or is not doing to help Nogales.  The only people authorized to talk to us were not in.

Mayor Garino says Nogales has spent 700 thousand dollars on a design for a fix and that IBWC offered 15 million if the city would put up another fifteen.  He says Nogales does not have that sort of money.