Bi-national projects lead to health benefits for border residents

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EL PASO — The bi-national project Border 2012 aims to improve the environment of the border region and the health of nearly 12 million people through a partnership between the United States and México.

The goals of Border 2012 are to reduce water contamination, reduce air pollution, reduce land contamination, improve environmental health, and emergency preparedness and response. Paving miles of highways in Sonora, México using asphalt pavement will reduce particulate matter in the air that leads to respiratory diseases.

Protecting and preserving the U.S.-México border region by identifying, developing, implementing and overseeing these environmental infrastructure projects is the job of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) headquartered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Since 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authorized the BECC to manage $7.4 million for 144 Border 2012 projects.

Paisano Valley Water Project In El Paso. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Paisano Valley Water Project In El Paso. (Courtesy of BECC)

The main function of the water and wastewater projects according to the BECC 2010 annual report is to eliminate exposure to unsanitary conditions and provide “…improved drinking water treatment/distribution as well as wastewater collection/treatment for the benefit of more than 12 million border residents.”

Paisano Valley Water Project In El Paso. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Paisano Valley Water Project In El Paso. (Courtesy of BECC)

Water conservation achieved by replacing or repairing old water lines is another project that helps residents along the border. An estimated 330 million gallons of water are saved per day. A project to replace water lines may cost $50,000 to $200,000.

BECC Communications and Community Relations Officer Veronica Frescas told Borderzine.com that working with the North American Development Bank in San Antonio “the Commission has completed 185 projects from California to Texas.”

The NABD offers loans for public and private projects that are certified by the BECC board of directors and the BECC offers technical assistance grant money for project development.

As of June 2011, 85 certified projects have been completed in the U.S. and 100 in Mexico totaling $4 billion. Of these, 48 were completed in Texas and 23 projects were completed in Chihuahua, México. Projects like wastewater collection and treatment in Chihuahua, México and water distribution line replacement in El Paso, Texas have benefited 13.8 million border residents, according to the BECC.

According to the 2010 annual report “in the past year the BECC has certified eight new environmental infrastructure projects relating to water, wastewater, and air quality, worth an estimated $276 million in construction investment and will benefit 1.8 million border residents.”

The BECC is managed by General Manager Maria Elena Giner in the U.S. and by Deputy General Manager José Mario Sánchez in México.

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