UPDATE: Officials say wastewater no longer spilling from broken pipe

Published: Jul. 26, 2017 at 2:37 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 2, 2017 at 10:00 AM MST
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NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Santa Cruz County officials said wastewater and sewage is no long spilling from the International Outfall Interceptor pipe in Nogales.

A broken pipe allowed untreated wastewater to flow into the Nogales Wash on Tuesday, July 25.

On Saturday Santa Cruz County Health Services said work continued to repair the partial breach in the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI).

The IOI is used to transport wastewater from both sides of the border to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant, about 200 yards north of the intersection of Old Tucson Road and the Nogales Wash.

The release also stated,

"Officials ask that the public refrain from entering the area to allow agencies representatives to conduct their surveys and for the safety of the employees working in the area.

The Nogales International Airport has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for a one nautical mile around the worksite. Officials have requested that drone use be restricted in the areas crews are working.

The Department of Agriculture shares the concerns of livestock owners and farmers in the region. Until there is more information about the extent of the situation, it is recommend not using water from the Santa Cruz River to water food crops or gardens.

Livestock should not be in the river or drinking from it."

On Tuesday, July 25, the City of Nogales signed a declaration of emergency and Santa Cruz County is also working on declaring a state of emergency as well.

The Mayor of Nogales said the city does not have the budget for the repairs.

County and City officials all agree this is a complex issue that will take cooperation from all levels.

Water samples from the wash are being tested to get a better understanding for how big of a public health issue this is.

A dislodged section of cement partially sheared the pipe below the waterline, causing the discharge of the wastewater into the wash, according to the release.

Santa Cruz County Health Services advise people living where there is water running in the wash and tributaries east of the wash to stay out of the areas.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement:

"This week's severe breach to the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) sewage pipeline along the U.S.-Mexico border is just the latest in a long history of unacceptable breakages to this deteriorating pipeline. The rupture could leave the Potrero Creek vulnerable to exposure of 15 million gallons of untreated sewage that flow through this pipeline every day. If left unattended, this spill could now flow through the Santa Cruz River, impacting countless communities in its path. I have addressed issues surrounding the management of this pipeline numerous times over the last ten years, most recently by introducing 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 to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC).

"The IBWC, which is tasked with the management of international water and boundary treaties, should be responsible for managing the infrastructure it relies on so heavily for international gain. Around 14 million gallons of sewage treated by the Nogales International Sanitation Project come from Mexico, leaving Nogales, Arizona, with an unfair burden of maintenance and upkeep. Breaches in the pipeline, like the one that occurred yesterday, are bound to happen when such responsibility is not appropriately shared.

"My staff is on-site in Nogales and working closely with state and local officials to provide assistance as the city moves forward on repairs. I will continue my efforts in Congress, including through legislation, to address this long-standing issue and prevent breaches like this from occurring in the future."

The Santa Cruz County Emergency Operation Center has been partially activated to ensure the health and safety of county and state residents.

A hotline has been set up for the public and media: 520-375-7784. More information can be found at the Santa Cruz County Facebook page, Twitter page and the county website: www.santacruzcountyaz.gov.

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