With citizen pressure mounting, U.S. environmental officials have told Mexican counterparts to guarantee public safety or reject the proposed La Choya hazardous waste landfill near the Arizona-Sonora state boundary. Indigenous government and environmental activists at the international crossroads want to nix the private, commercial project.

Mexico’s federal Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat) initially authorized the toxic waste confinement on Oct. 13, 2005, without a public hearing. The landfill is a project of the fledgling firm Centro de Gestión Integral de Residuos (Cegire), headquartered in the Sonora state capital of Hermosillo.

According to the environmental impact statement Cegire submitted to obtain authorization, the project entails building and operating an eight-cell disposal area just off the highway between Hermosillo and the border town of Sonoyta. The 247.1-acre (1 square kilometer) site is 25 miles (41 kms) south of the U.S.-Mexico border in the municipality of Gen. Plutarco Elias Calles. It is conceived to handle 45,000 metric tons annually of hazardous industrial waste over a 50-year period.

In the most recent of numerous protest demonstrations, the non-profit Ciudadanos Comprometidos con Sonoyta (Committed Sonoyta Citizens) staged a symbolic closure of the strategic border crossing between Sonoyta and Lukeville, Ariz., on Nov. 26. The action was calculated to draw international attention by catching Thanksgiving vacationers returning to the United States from the Sonora beach resort of Puerto Peñasco.

U.S. environmental authorities have taken a more diplomatic approach to questioning the proposed dump. In a letter dated Nov. 7, 2006, EPA Region 9 Waste Management Division Associate Director David Jones told Semarnat’s Acting Director of Integrated Hazardous Materials and Activities Management, Alfonso Flores Ramirez: