Sewage issues prompt County to warn public of New River threat

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County and State Officials will hold meeting this month to address infrastructure issues affecting the New River environmental issues. File photo.

EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Public Health Department is reminding the public that the New River continues to pose a threat to the local environment, communities, and those whose work may bring them in contact with the river. This year, two major releases of untreated sewage have occurred due to infrastructure problems in Mexico. Dr. Stephen Munday, County Health Officer, stated, “Although local and binational efforts have improved New River water quality, the on-going and unpredictable release of untreated sewage requires continued vigilance in avoiding contact with New River water and the river banks.”

According to a released statement, the County of Imperial is working closely with state agencies and other local stakeholders, including the Imperial Irrigation District and the City of Calexico, to play a role in the state’s efforts to implement the New River Improvement Project to protect public health. The New River Improvement Project (NRIP) is a product of AB 1079, authored by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez.

“It is extremely important for the Board of Supervisors to stay engaged with the state during these critical discussions and developments of the implementation of the New River Improvement Project,” stated Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael W. Kelley, District 3 representative.

This month, County officials will be meeting with members of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission to help move forward efforts to correct the serious sewage infrastructure problems in Mexicali. The meeting will be held in Imperial County; however a day has not yet been confirmed. District 1 Supervisor John Renison expressed his concern regarding the recent release of sewage from the City of Mexicali into the New River saying, “This is an awful situation, but the County has the best interests of its residents in mind and we will do all that we can to work with our state and federal colleagues toward a resolution.”

The public is asked to take the following precautions:

· Avoid swimming or drinking water from the New River
· Avoid contact with the foam generated by the New River
· Do not allow your pets to enter the New River
· Avoid handling/collecting and eating fish/turtles/frogs from the New River