Officials with El Paso Water announced Wednesday that the first phase of the Montana Vista Wastewater Project is nearly complete, with over 500 customers connected to the EPWater wastewater system for the very first time.
According to officials, since the project began in Nov. 2019, 95% of residents that signed letters of intent for Phase I are now connected to the wastewater system. Additionally, efforts to secure funding for Phase II are underway.
“Feedback has been very positive,” said Irazema Rojas, EPWater Capital Improvement Manager, “Residents are relieved to now have fully functioning wastewater service without having to worry about the issues that come with using septic tanks.”
The Montana Vista area in Far East El Paso was built decades ago outside the city limits without water or wastewater infrastructure. Model subdivision rules now prevent the development of communities without these basic services.
Eventually, funding helped bring water service to the area, but it remained without wastewater service.
Finally in 2019, community leaders and advocates worked with El Paso Water to apply for and secure funding from the Texas Water Development Board to begin the wastewater project.
“For decades community leaders and El Paso Water have been fighting for this community to have wastewater infrastructure” said State Rep. Mary González, D-Clint. “My gratitude to everyone who has made it a reality.”
To date, crews have installed 72,212 feet of pipe underground and have constructed more than 140 manholes.
Converting from septic tanks to the wastewater system is beneficial to customers for a number of reasons. Not only does the switch eliminate maintenance costs and removes capacity limits, but it safeguards public health as well.
“We have a big family, we use a lot of water, so it fills up fast,” said Joseph Reyna, a Montana Vista resident. “When it leaks or overfills, the odor isn’t pleasant so it’s great knowing that we won’t have to deal with those issues.”
In 2012, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a nuisance determination for the community, documenting the health problems the septic tanks were causing with contaminated soils and foul odors.
“Many people in Montana Vista are suffering the daily inconvenience and uncertainty of maintaining this type of system,” said Rojas. “There is now a big sense of relief felt by many of those who have now connected to the wastewater system, but there are still thousands more we plan to reach in the next two phases.”
Utility officials say that planning has started for Phase II of the project with EPWater officials currently working to secure grant funding from the Border Environment Infrastructure Fund, which offers financing for the implementation of municipal water and wastewater infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The Texas Water Development Board has been a great partner, funding more than $12 million through the Economically Distressed Areas Program,” said Lisa Rosendorf, EPWater Chief Communications & Government Affairs Officer. “However, we still need another $25 million dollars to fully connect the community, so we have a lot of work to do to secure new state or federal dollars.”
Upon completion of the entire three-phase project, an estimated 2,400 homes in the Montana Vista area will be connected to modern wastewater infrastructure, something the community has fought for years to achieve.