El Paso Water Logo
Installation of the replacement line for the damaged Frontera Force Main pipelines remains on schedule for completion this month.
Contractors are working 14-hour weekdays and 10-hour weekend days to finish installation. El Paso Water is now planning for the commissioning and testing of the new wastewater line.
Once the pipeline is connected, the commissioning includes a start-up phase of a few weeks to test pipeline system integrity. During this process, low volumes of wastewater will be put through the lines while crews carefully monitor the pipeline system performance. There will be a gradual ramp up and testing before the system receives the full volume of wastewater flows. “This testing will run into early January,” said Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “After testing has been completed and the new pipeline is in operation, all wastewater discharged into the river will stop.”
Arcadis, the environmental engineering consulting firm contracted by EPWater, has been assessing environmental impacts and is developing a plan for remediation. The firm has been evaluating water and sediment quality sample data, and analyzing vegetation and wildlife, especially along the Rio Grande riverbed and riverbanks. “The plan will include recommendations for remediation of adversely affected areas and will also identify restoration measures,” Trejo said.
The utility continues its efforts to minimize the impact of wastewater discharge by diverting significant volumes to the Haskell R. Street and the Robert R. Bustamante wastewater treatment plants. Due to scheduled construction work on the Riverside Canal, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 is diverting the treated wastewater back into the Rio Grande, increasing dilution to any remaining wastewater flowing downstream.
“We have made a lot of progress, but we have more work ahead of us to remedy the impacts of this wastewater emergency,” Trejo said. “We are committed to doing what is needed to protect public safety.”
Background: Beginning on August 13, the utility experienced multiple breaks to the Frontera Force Mains. On average, the lines carry about 10 million gallons of wastewater from West El Paso every day. Additional breaks – and wastewater backups in a low-lying Upper Valley neighborhood– forced EPWater to make the difficult decision to divert wastewater to the Rio Grande. 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.