Kelly and Sinema’s Historic Nogales Wastewater Pipeline Legislation Passes Senate in Annual Defense Bill   

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. 

Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema successfully secured the 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), which passed the Senate on a broadly bipartisan vote. Kelly and Sinema’s legislation represents a historic agreement between the City of Nogales and the federal government.  

“For decades, the people of Nogales have been burdened by untreated wastewater from Mexico overflowing into their streets, while Washington failed to act. Our bill will finally provide the City of Nogales with a permanent solution to protect their public health, while also combating cross-border drug trafficking,” said Senator Kelly. “I’ll continue working with Senator Sinema and Representatives Grijalva to ensure this becomes law.”   

“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. Kelly and 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. Kelly and 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. Kelly and 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.