MEXICALI — Millions of gallons of raw sewage are pouring into the New River from Mexicali every day, according to officials from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB).
“A sewage collector collapsed in Mexicali in January and they were discharging 1.73 million gallons per day of raw sewage into the New River,” said Jose Angel, executive officer for the CRWQCB. “We just learned this week that another pipe has collapsed and this one is discharging 13 million gallons per day of raw sewage into the New River.”
Angel was asked by The Desert Review if nearly 15 million gallons (over 45 acre-feet) of raw sewage a day spilling into the New River was a threat to the environment or Valley residents.
“These discharges pose a serious threat to the environment and public health for anyone that may come in contact with the New River,” said Angel. “We are very concerned about the lack of decisive action from the federal government to effectively address this problem. We warned them about these potential problems two years ago.”
Angel estimated that it would take approximately $80 million to get things in order in Mexicali.
The new wastewater treatment plant south of Mexicali was completed in 2007. While operational, the plant was treating 15 million gallons of sewage per day before it was released into the New River, which empties into the Salton Sea.
The EPA contributed nearly half of the $98.6 million cost of wastewater projects in Mexico. Mexico was responsible for the other half.
The CRWQCB suspects a lack of proper maintenance of the facility is a possible problem. The discharges will raise bacteria, phosphates, and selenium. Overall water quality of the New River and the Salton Sea will be diminished.
“It is a terrible situation,” agreed John Renison, Imperial County Supervisor, District 1 in response to the problem.
“We are on it and we will address the problem at our next meeting. We are working on a project that will process the sewage in Calexico. The project is called the New River Improvement Project.”
Renison noted that the County would be receiving funding from the EPA for the project’s engineering and design, and that the CRWQCB is currently looking for funding the project.
“It could be $20 million or more for this,” admitted Renison. “The County will be the lead agency in the project, but it won’t cost the County any money. It will be all state or federal funds.”