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U.S., MEXICO OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE PROGRESS ON BORDER ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Release Date: 5/17/1999
Contact Information: Paula Bruin, U.S. EPA (415) 744-1587
Officials from the United States and Mexico meeting in Ensenada, Baja California, announced environmental and public health improvements along the 2,000 mile Mexico-U.S. border and discussed future steps to ensure a high quality of life for all residents on both sides of the border in 2000 and beyond.
At the close of the annual Border XXI Program National Coordinators Meeting May 12-14, Mexico announced that by the year 2000 it expects to provide 93% of its border population with drinking water, 75% with sewage infrastructure, and 81% with wastewater treatment capacity up from 88%, 69%, and 34%, respectively, in 1995. On both sides of the border, more than 4 million residents will be served by 16 water projects under way or already constructed through investments of more than $400 million certified by the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC).
"Our meeting has focused on real progress: infrastructure being built, people being served, and the devotion of significant material and human resources for cleanup in the border region," said William Nitze, Assistant Administrator for International Activities for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States' National Coordinator for Border XXI. "This work is accomplished through effective partnerships and full participation at every level in our two nations -- federal, state, tribal and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and communities. Our Principles of Coordination with the border states reaffirm the spirit of collaboration and respect that underlies the Border XXI process."
"The continuing growth along both sides of our shared border require that we focus on developing in a sustainable manner, looking to the health and prosperity of future generations," said Jose Luis Samaniego, Coordinator of International Affairs for the Mexican Secretariat of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP) and Mexico's National Coordinator for Border XXI. "By expanding public awareness and access to information about these vital issues, we can involve everyone in improving the quality of life and the environment in the border region."
The National Coordinators welcomed the states and tribes as full partners in the Border XXI Program and announced agreement between the federal governments and nine border states on Principles of Coordination for participation in the Border XXI workgroups. The National Coordinators and tribal and state representatives defined mechanisms for increased state and tribal participation in the program. The signing of the document marked an important advance in formalizing years of collaborative efforts between the two federal governments and the border states, and recognized tribal communities on both sides of the border as having a long tradition of environmental stewardship which calls for their active participation in Border XXI.
The Coordinators also recognized efforts to promote sustainable development that have taken place on both sides of the border. In February in Reynosa, SEMARNAP launched a series of workshops to build the capacity of Mexican border communities to plan for a sustainable future. Results of these and other efforts were presented at a conference on Sustainable Development in Brownsville, Texas, in March. Additionally, the U.S.-Mexico border was highlighted at the President's Council on Sustainable Development National Town Meeting in Detroit in early May.
In addition, the Coordinators invited industry to join government in a new strategic alliance in the pursuit of the common goal of sustainable economic development. A central feature of this alliance is a series of seven Principles of Environmental Stewardship for the 21st Century that is being developed by U.S. and Mexican business and trade leaders in cooperation with the EPA, SEMARNAP and BECC.
Among other accomplishments reported at the annual meeting were:
Near-term solutions such as sewage system upgrades in Reynosa, wastewater treatment in Mexicali, and enhanced water distribution in Nogales are improving conditions for more than one million residents while long-term planning advances.
The International Wastewater Treatment Plant on the U.S. side of the border north of Tijuana began advanced primary treatment this year to reduce sewage flows to the Tijuana River and Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, ground will be broken on June 2 on a $20 million project facilitated by California and Baja California to improve the reliability of the Tijuana wastewater collection system.
The first wastewater treatment plant in Juarez is currently being constructed and will serve more than 1.2 million people.
Operation of air monitoring networks in Tijuana and Mexicali will be transferred to Mexico this fall following two full years of successful sampling.
The Ambos Nogales air toxics study report will be published this fall, providing an emissions inventory for particulates and hazardous air pollutants, a health risk assessment, and a breakdown of pollution sources in the area.
Recommendations on steps to reduce air pollution-causing congestion at border crossings will be presented to the governors of the western U.S. states in June and to the ten U.S. and Mexico border states in September.
Three Sister City Joint Contingency Plans have been signed to establish cooperative mechanisms for responding to chemical emergencies in the border communities of Brownsville/Matamoros, Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras, and Laredo/Nuevo Laredo. A Sister City plan for El Paso/Juarez is expected to be signed in June 1999, and a mutual aid agreement between Imperial County and Mexicali is expected in July. Final preparations are also under way for the signing of a Joint Contingency Plan in early June to address borderwide environmental emergencies.
Mexico reaffirmed the policy of returning hazardous waste from maquiladoras to the U.S., even after the full implementation of NAFTA. The continuation of this policy will ensure that hazardous wastes generated by the more than 3,000 maquiladoras in Mexico are managed appropriately.
Mexico and the U.S. continue working on an agreement for consultation on permitting decisions for hazardous and radioactive waste facilities. A final agreement is expected this year.
A joint pilot effort by Texas and Mexico provided assistance to 19 maquiladoras, resulting in annual reductions by December 1998 of 31 million gallons of water, 10.9 million kilowatt-hours of energy use, 53,000 pounds of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to the air, 8,600 tons of hazardous waste, and 52,000 tons of nonhazardous waste, saving participating facilities a total of $8.4 million.
The "Agua Limpia en Casa" program began operation in its pilot phase in 14 localities in the Municipio of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, with the goal of significantly reducing mortality rates by providing clean water, education, and basic sanitation in border communities. The program will be expanded to other border communities in the state of Coahuila in 1999.
Members of the Natural Resources and Water Workgroups agreed to binationally asssess the use, management, and operations of the Rio Grande River and its tributaries and impacts on the health of the riparian habitat of several adjacent natural protected areas in the Big Bend region.
At the National Coordinators Meeting in Ensenada, federal and state environmental officials from the United States and Mexico, representatives from tribal nations, officials from the binational BECC, North American Development Bank (NADBank), and International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), members of the environmental justice community, representatives from industry and nongovernmental organizations, and members of the public reviewed the accomplishments and engaged in strategic planning for the Border XXI Program. Nine binational workgroups reported progress made in 1998 and significant advancements towards the development of plans and the identification of projects for 1999-2000.
Border XXI is an innovative binational effort between the United States and Mexico to protect the natural resources and environment of the border region. The mission of Border XXI is to active a clean environment, protect public health and natural resources, and encourage sustainable development along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Further information on the Border XXI Program and the National Coordinators Meeting can be found on the Border XXI Web site at www.epa.gov/usmexicoborder . Further information can also be requested via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.