Environmentalists accuse Ciudad Juarez of polluting Rio Grande

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Aug 1 (EFE).- Environmentalists are accusing the city council in the northern Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez of polluting the Rio Grande, which is shared by Mexico and the United States, with the unsanitary flow from at least seven contaminated sewage streams.

El Chamizal Defense Front spokesman Daniel Delgadillo Diaz told EFE on Tuesday that the streams emanate from an inhabited area of the Sierra de Juarez where sewage drainage is deficient or non-existent.

The seven contamination locations are located along the first – or westernmost – three kilometers (about 1.9 miles) of the Rio Grande along the border between the US and Mexico.

As per an international agreement, every year the US provides water for irrigation to Mexico from the Elephant Butte and Horse Lake dams in New Mexico along some 500 km (310 mi.) of the Rio Grande, known in Mexico as the Rio Bravo.

The water arrives clean at the border where Texas, New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet, but the first three km of the Rio Grande, where it touches Mexican territory, is contaminated with sewage from these seven discharge points.

“There are seven sewage discharge points from the drainage of the Municipal Water and Sanitation Board (JMAS). It’s very serious, it can be clearly seen how the water comes from the US dam and here it (becomes) contaminated with sewage,” Delgadillo Diaz said during a tour of the area provided to EFE.

The environmentalist has identified the sewers from which sewage flows and is channeled via streams that the city had originally created exclusively for rainwater.

The channels come together and become sewage streams that then discharge into the Rio Grande.

“It’s causing damage to the environment. There’s a lot of fauna, aquatic birds, mainly plants such as tule (a type of large bulrush). It’s causing a lot of damage to the ecosystem in the area,” he said.

Delgadillo Diaz said that in May 2022 his organization filed a protective lawsuit (“amparo proceedings”) against the inaction of the JMAS, the International Boundary and Water Commission (CILA) and the Mexican National Water Commission (Conagua), claiming “carelessness, inattention and negligence” by these entities.

“The JMAS has always said that it’s not true, that these are momentary discharges due to the rupture of a pipe or a house that discharges the water, (and) it’s never accepted (the fact) that they are responsible,” he said.

Among the evidence presented in the lawsuit is a video of the discharges along with laboratory samples determined to be sewage, as well as an account of the damage caused to crops in the Juarez Valley, the place where the irrigation water arrives.

According to Delgadillo Diaz, the CILA has argued that “since there is a lot of clean water and little polluted water, (the latter) becomes diluted.”

While the JMAS has promised “a channel to the treatment plant using funds from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)”, but “this work is not being seen or repairs (being made) in the (affected neighborhoods),” he said.

Another concern is the possible seepage of contaminated water into the Hueco-Mesilla Bolson Aquifer that feeds Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas.

There are hundreds of families living along the seven sewage streams that extend up to half a kilometer (about 1/3 mi.) into the residential areas near the Rio Grande, where the public must contend with foul odors and assorted types of infection.

Maria del Carmen Avila, 62, frequently walks with her two grandchildren along Villa Coronado St., which years ago was transformed into a sewage stream.

“I’ve been living here all my life and they’ve never done anything. Look at my feet, how they are from walking through the stream so much,” she said.

EFE –/bp

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