U.S. Water News Online
PHOENIX -- Residents on both sides of the border are upset
about a proposed Mexican hazardous-waste landfill that would cover
more than 200 acres on a site where water flows toward the Gulf of
California and the wind blows toward Arizona.
The only thing now blocking the landfill, which would be 25 miles
south of the Arizona-Mexico border, is the opposition of the Mexican
city of Sonoyta, which has refused to issue a permit out of concern
for residents' health and safety.
Activists say they'll keep fighting until the proposed site is
"We want a dialogue. We want answers. We want the truth," said Dr.
David Mota Cienfuegos, an orthodontist and lifelong Sonoyta resident.
Recently, about 1,000 Sonoyta residents protesting the landfill
blockaded the main road from Puerto Penasco, Mexico, a community
popular with U.S. tourists. Arizona and Pima County officials say the
landfill's plans don't ensure the safety of surrounding residents and
Activists from the Tohono O'odham Nation, an American Indian
community straddling the border, are also outraged. Tribal members
hold an annual sacred ceremony less than 13 miles from the proposed
The project has gone through Mexico's permitting process with
little input from local residents and belated notice to the United
Mexico and the United States signed an agreement in 1999 requiring
both countries to inform the other within 30 days of becoming aware
of any hazardous-waste facility proposed within 62 miles of the
But Mexico's secretary for the environment and natural resources
didn't inform the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the
proposed landfill until September 2005, long past the 30-day
The EPA concluded in a report this month that the landfill poses
no risk to the United States and that the agency will take no further
action to dissuade Mexico from its plans.
But the EPA noted several times in its report that there is
insufficient information to accurately assess all the risks.
It's unclear what hazardous waste the landfill will accept.
The EPA notes what it won't take in, things like radioactive
materials, explosives and infectious biological waste. It could,
however, accept corrosives, cyanide and solvents as many U.S.
hazardous-waste sites do.
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