Photo courtesy EPWater

EPWater provides update on wastewater emergency in West El Paso

On Monday, officials with EPWater announced that their crews have completed repairs to one of the two damaged wastewater lines known as the Frontera Force Mains near Sunland Park Drive and Doniphan Drive.

Utility officials say this will eliminate wastewater flows into area stormwater ponds that have contributed to significant odors in the surrounding area.  The repair will also reduce some of the volume of wastewater discharged into the Rio Grande.

“We have reached a point where we are gradually reducing the impact to affected businesses and residents,” said EPWater Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “Odors should begin to decrease as clean-up efforts ramp up. We appreciate the community’s patience and understanding during this challenging time.”

Ponds near Frontera Road, Doniphan Drive and Sunland Park Drive will be drained. Disinfection and deodorizing efforts will continue around the ponds. Together, these efforts should reduce odors and help with clean-up efforts.

“Due to corrosion in the second force main, we determined the best course of action is to completely re-route to the new replacement pipeline, which is mostly installed in this stretch and nearing completion,” said Trejo.

In March 2020, the EPWater started a two-year replacement project of the mains after a condition assessment revealed significant corrosion. The new wastewater main is made of fiberglass, a corrosion-resistant material.

The project has been accelerated to be completed in November 2021.

Utility officials add that, until the new pipeline connection is made, they will continue to release wastewater to the Rio Grande. They also caution the public to continue to avoid all contact with river water.

Beginning on August 13, the utility experienced multiple breaks to the parallel wastewater lines. This set of pipelines collects all the Westside wastewater – from showers, sinks, and toilets.

On average, the lines carry about 10 million gallons of wastewater every day.

Additional breaks – and wastewater backups in a low-lying Upper Valley neighborhood– forced the utility to make the difficult decision to divert wastewater to the Rio Grande in late August.

The utility reported the initial wastewater emergency to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and has maintained regular contact with the agency throughout the process.

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