Drug Smugglers Destroy Sewer Line

Millions of dollars in repairs are needed after bundles of marijuana cause a major backup in a city’s wastewater system.
Drug Smugglers Destroy Sewer Line

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A CCTV inspection confirmed what officials in Arizona had suspected — bundles of marijuana, being smuggled from Mexico, blocked a sewer line and caused a major backup.

Nearly all of the wastewater from the City of Nogales, Mexico, flows through the International Outflow Interceptor (IOI), a 24-inch cement sewer line, across the border and on to a treatment plant in Rio Rico, Arizona.

That flow (up to 10 mgd) was disrupted on July 5, which was when emergency crews from Nogales, Arizona, were called to a house that became flooded from the backup as wastewater spilled into the surrounding neighborhood.

According to reports, smugglers dug a tunnel from the corner of the abandoned home to access the sewer line 12 feet below Morely Avenue, broke through the IOI, and inserted a steel rack to catch the bundles of drugs. CCTV footage pinpointed an 18-inch breach in the pipe near the tunnel.

“The smugglers accessed the international sewer line to fish out drugs that were being put there at some point in Mexico,” City Manager Shane Dille told KGUN9-TV. “The rack itself and what appear to be several bundles have lodged in the IOI, which created a backup and filled up the tunnel that they had created, and then we had the sewer spilling out as a consequence.”

Inside the home, officials found a drill, oxygen tanks, and what appeared to be a hose used to pump air into the tunnel as further evidence of illicit activity.

In addition to scattering chlorine tablets to disinfect the potentially hazardous wastewater, city crews stopped the spill by blocking the line at the manhole south of the affected home, diverting the wastewater to Nogales Wash and back into the IOI farther north.

A contractor from Tucson was called in to dig up the road, remove the drugs and make repairs to the sewer line. There was no immediate cost estimate for the work, but Deputy City Manager John Kissinger said it could eventually be in the millions of dollars.

This is not the first time cross-border sewer lines in Nogales have been used to smuggle drugs. According to the Nogales International, several bales of marijuana were found in the IOI in 2009. In February, public works employees discovered bundles of marijuana blocking a sewer line, and 39 pounds of pot were recovered from another line in 2011.

Source: KGUN9-TV, Nogales International, Planet Nogales


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