New River Pollution

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

American health officials are concerned about pollution flowing from the New River in Mexico across the border into the United States. Many people from Mexico use the river to try to enter the United States illegally. Health officials are concerned that illegal immigrants who float in the New River may be bringing diseases into the country. They say pollution from the river may be a threat to public health.

The New River begins just south of the city of Mexicali, Mexico, near the American border. It flows north, entering the United States at the small border town of Calexico, California. It picks up agricultural chemicals, industrial wastes and human wastes as it flows north.

Officials in California say the river smells and looks bad when it reaches the United States. But they say the pollution in the river helps illegal immigrants hide from border patrol agents. In addition, border patrol agents do not want to jump into the river to capture the illegal immigrants.

Experts say the New River contains many bacteria and viruses. Chemicals from factories and Mexican farms have been found in the river. Experts say it also contains heavy metals and high levels of a harmful bacteria found in human waste.

Health officials say anyone who swims in the river is at risk for several diseases. Health officials say it is impossible to know how many illegal immigrants get sick from the river pollution. But they say the people may be carrying bacteria and viruses that later develop into diseases that can be passed to other people.

The United State Environmental Protection Agency says the New River is one of the most polluted rivers in North America. It contains at least sixty-million liters of untreated or partly treated human waste from the waste system of Mexicali, Mexico. Mexicali is a city of more than six-hundred-thousand people. The Environmental Protection Agency is paying for more than half of a fifty-million dollar project to improve the Mexicali waste treatment system. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Health experts say a cleanup of the New River will not stop immigrants from trying to use it to enter the United States. But they say it may keep disease from spreading.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English