Photo courtesy EPWater

El Paso Water employees prepare plants for 2021 river season

As signs point to a shorter river water season next year, El Paso Water employees are making sure every drop of river water is maximized in 2021.

The recent end of spring river flows from Elephant Butte Reservoir signal the beginning of the maintenance transition for employees of EPWater’s two river water treatment plants.

The Jonathan Rogers and the Robertson/Umbenhauer – aka the Canal Plant – water treatment plants are buzzing with activity as maintenance season gets underway.

“We have to make sure that everything is going to run without any problems so that we can use as much of that river water as possible, especially this coming season,” said Ruben Montes, Superintendent of the Canal Plant.

“There are no shortcuts,” said Mike Parker, Superintendent of the Jonathan Rogers plant. “I stress that to my staff. If there is a bolt that’s stripped, don’t hide it. If you stripped it, I would rather you tell me now because later on it’s going to be underwater and it’s going to stop our production.”

It’s business as usual this time of year, with one striking difference because of the pandemic. Each plant has implemented various precautions to guard against COVID-19 in the workplace.

At the Canal Plant, the maintenance season marks the return to a fixed schedule for about 17 staff members. But minimizing contact between employees won’t be tough because of the lengthy to-do list around the plant, Montes said. Plans are in place to reduce contact between staff, such as adding tables to space employees apart during lunch and allowing only two employees at a time in the breakroom.

Over at the Rogers Plant, three-person crews on a full staff of 18 work harmoniously to tackle multiple projects slated for the season, said Norbert Hernandez, Assistant Superintendent. Social distancing and personal protective equipment are incorporated into their work.

The task list during maintenance season is divided into four areas: predictive, preventive and corrective maintenance, as well as capital projects, Parker said.

Projects slated for the Rogers Plant include installing new climber screens and a screw pump, draining and desilting ponds, evaluating pumps for repair, draining and inspecting basins and maintaining the plant’s new ozone system, which recently completed its first full year of service.

Work at the Canal Plant will include draining, cleaning and inspecting basins; removing pumps for rebuilding; replacing sand pumps; as well as chlorine handling improvements for efficiency and employee safety.

The list may be long, but leaders at both plants know they can count on the hard-working crews that are more than capable of producing.

“Our employees know that they’re on the forefront of an essential mission,” Parker said.

“Our guys have been very helpful through this pandemic,” Montes said. “They have been here day after day. We have a bunch of good employees that are very dedicated and are aware of the importance of the job they do.”

Photo courtesy EPWater