Sinema Secures Historic Nogales Wastewater Pipeline Legislation in Annual Defense Bill

Jul 26, 2023

The Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act represents a historic agreement transferring ownership, operations, and maintenance responsibilities of the Nogales International Outfall Interceptor to the U.S.

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema successfully secured her Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act — legislation transferring the ownership, operations, and maintenance of the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) to the U.S.-section of the International Boundary and Water Commission — in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Sinema’s legislation represents a historic agreement between the City of Nogales and the federal government.
“This agreement has been decades in the making – and I’m incredibly proud that it is moving forward to become law. Our legislation delivers a permanent solution to the Nogales International Outfall Interceptor dilemma and provides long-awaited relief to Nogales families’ health and safety,” said Sinema.
For years, the City of Nogales has continually tried to seek federal funds and additional ownership responsibility from the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for necessary infrastructure improvements on an international sewage pipe that flows from Mexico through Nogales, Arizona to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Facility in Rio Rico, Arizona. 
Families in Nogales have faced challenges with untreated wastewater coming from Mexico and overflowing into streets during storm events. Sinema’s legislation will streamline the ability for the government to respond to crises on the US-side of the border and authorizes full funding for operations and maintenance into the future.
Additionally, drug smugglers in Mexico use the IOI to send narcotics and other illicit goods through the pipeline from the Mexico-side of the border to be retrieved on the U.S.-side. This pipeline is being used as a tunnel for illicit trafficking – directly below the Customs and Border Protection DeConcini Port of Entry. Sinema’s bill authorizes the construction of a drug screen at the border to catch the illicit materials cartels are sending into Arizona communities before they can be retrieved. 
More than half of all the fentanyl seized by CBP and DEA in the entire United States is seized in Arizona. Sinema’s bill better prevents these drugs from entering the country. Transferring the ownership of the pipeline, and authorizing the construction of a critical drug screen at the border, would rectify what amounts to an immediate risk to the local community, but also address nationwide security concerns as Sinema focuses on combating cartel trafficking.