Photos courtesy EP Water

EPWater: Help protect our ‘microscopic workforce’

According to El Paso Water, some of hardest working members of their treatment facilities are in danger, due to the excessive flushing of sanitary wipes and chemicals.

“There are some very hard workers at El Paso Water wastewater plants. They work without pay and without breaks. And they work their entire lives; no retirement for them,” EP Water officials share. “They are the beneficial bacteria that live in the live ecosystem of the aerator basins, helping to break down the waste in wastewater.”

The human employees of El Paso Water monitor the well-being of these microscopic creatures daily to ensure they remain active and healthy because they play an important role in the wastewater treatment process.

The bacteria consume viruses and pathogens, helping to clean wastewater to a level that is safe for release into the Rio Grande or to reclaim and use again at power plants, golf courses, parks or construction sites.

However, at least one facility in Colorado has experienced a very sudden loss of beneficial bacteria, possibly as a result of chemical toxicity in the wastewater that is attributable to increased use of sanitation wipes and chemicals.

With the concerns of Coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been a surge in use of these products to disinfect homes and businesses.

While this is a prudent thing to do to maintain a healthy and safe home and business, improper disposal by flushing those wipes and chemicals is creating concern at wastewater facilities nationwide.

“At this point, we are monitoring our wastewater treatment plants for any adverse effects to the biological process,” said Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “This shows how our staff is thinking of everything during these difficult times to keep producing clean water. We do urge the public to please not send any kind of wipe, chemical or medicines down the drains.”

Paul Rivas, Chief Operations Officer for Production and Treatment, couldn’t agree more.

“That’s why we partner with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Drug Take Back Day and we promote using the Citizen Collection Stations,” Rivas said. “I can’t stress it enough; we need to keep trash, medicines, bleach wipes, hand sanitizers and other chemical cleaners out of the system to protect the system and ultimately, the environment.”

To find out the locations and hours of the Citizen Collection Stations, click here or call 3-1-1.