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Home | Tag Archives: ep water

Tag Archives: ep water

Video+Story: Earthquake damage leads to rapid rehab of EPWater reservoir

A restoration of the Sunset Heights Pump Station and Reservoir was already part of El Paso Water’s capital improvement plan. After all, the facility built in the early 1920s is one of El Paso Water’s oldest structures.

But then the earthquake happened.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake shook near the town of Mentone, Texas on March 26 at approximately 9:16 a.m. MST.

Even though it was about 175 miles away and three miles below the surface, it was felt by many El Pasoans. And it was felt by one of the two 100-year-old reservoirs.

“The reservoir started leaking,” said Trades Helper Christopher Aguilar, who was one of the many EPWater employees who responded to the scene. “It started leaking at the bottom, at the base of the mountain where the reservoir structure meets the ground.”

After the reservoir was drained and fully cleaned to inspect the damage, it was quickly evident the improvement project would need to be expanded due to extensive damage to the reservoir, much of which was due to age and predated the earthquake.

On May 13, the Public Service Board approved a $7 million emergency rehabilitation project that will include completely lining the structure with a high-strength polymer concrete, reinforcing the structural beams, replacing the yard piping inside the tank as well as some of the inoperable valves.

“The liner that will be used is carbon-reinforced concrete that exceeds 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi),” said Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “By comparison, the concrete that is used for building foundations and interstate highways is about 4000-5000 psi. This polymer concrete will allow us to have a stronger structure than if we built a new one.”

Alan Shubert, Vice President for Operations and Technical Services says the project allows EPWater to maintain service to the area while maintaining the historical significance of the site.

“It’s an installation that is completely surrounded by development, so it’s not an option to tear it down and build something new,” he said. “Plus, this is a historic structure in a historic building. The last thing we want to do is destroy part of El Paso’s history.”

Construction is expected to begin this summer. Because the other reservoir is operational, water service in the area will continue with limited interruptions.

Sunset Reservoir | Photo courtesy EP Water

EP Water offers tips to ‘Water Smarter’ during summer season

As temperatures are warming up, many El Pasoans are eager to work in their gardens.  With the launch of EP Water’s ‘Water Smarter’ campaign, both the homeowner and the region can benefit from participation.

“During this unprecedented time when many El Pasoans are home, gardening offers us a chance to make a difference in our yards and connect with nature.” EP Water’s John Balliew, P.E., President/CEO shared.  “Aside from the mental health and physical benefits, gardening also offers an educational opportunity for parents to teach children how to maintain a garden while watering smarter.”

The Water Smarter campaign offers indoor and outdoor tips on how to save both water and money. Customers can reduce their bills through water conservation.  During the pandemic, with most of our family members at home, most are washing more dishes and doing more laundry.

This, combined with the recent rate increase, may result in higher water bills. However, following tips from our Water Smarter public service campaign can save water at home while also saving customers some money.

The online Conservation Page offers many simple tips to reduce water use indoors and outdoors.

When heading out to local nurseries to plan gardens, residents are asked to design landscapes to save water. For ideas, area gardners can visit  EPWater’s interactive website to learn more about desert-friendly plants to include in your water-efficient landscapes.

Aside from adding color year-round to yards, native and adapted plants for our region require less water.

Also, the time-of-day watering schedule is in effect through September, allowing residents to water their landscape up to three times a week before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

Even-numbered addresses may water Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Odd-numbered addresses may water Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No residential watering is allowed Mondays.

Gardeners see the benefits of following this schedule because it reduces water loss from evaporation, as well as conserving water and saving money.

“Additionally, customers who use less than 4 CCFs (1 CCF is approximately 748 gallons) of water in a month will receive a conservation waiver – in effect saving nearly $12 a month,” utility officials added.

Small changes around your home can not only make a big difference in monthly water bills, conservation efforts will ensure sustainability for future generations.

“For more than 30 years, EPWater customers have made conservation a way of life in El Paso, and we are thankful for the community’s support,” Balliew added. “The community has embraced water conservation as a daily ritual, and we encourage you to water even smarter.”

EPWater shares journey to social distancing, keeping utility running during COVID19 emergency

Before the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported in the city, El Paso Water officials share the steps they took to secure the workplace for employees and the public.

Social-distancing guidelines were quickly implemented in early March, and customer services shifted online to reduce the risk of exposure, minimize the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of employees and customers. With new safety protocols in place, EPWater moved to ensure critical facilities would keep taps flowing.

“These may seem like extreme measures, but we are doing everything in our power to protect the health of both our employees and customers,” said John Balliew, President and CEO.

Inside the workplace, EPWater employees canceled business travel, limited in-person contact and made teleconferencing the new norm.

Fleet Maintenance and Stormwater employees made sanitizer spray to disinfect utility vehicles, and a specialty firm was hired to sanitize some EPWater facilities.

“We are moving to take every precaution in this rapidly changing situation,” said Alan Shubert, Vice President, Operations and Technical Services. “We are continuing to adapt and to adopt new strategies to avoid spreading this virus.”

At the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, essential employees are taking new preventive measures. Working safe means

Photo courtesy EPWater

staggering lunch breaks and routinely disinfecting workstations, chairs and tables, Superintendent Martin Ortiz said.

“We are also disinfecting our tools before and after using them to eliminate contamination,” Olivas said. “On the supervisory side, we are being vigilant to spot an employee showing signs of illness.”

At job sites, employees in the field continue to provide the same essential services of repairing main breaks and water outages, but with precautions.

“We are following social-distancing procedures, sanitizing and drinking from individual water containers,” said Felipe Lopez, Utility Chief Operations Officer.

“In our line of work, we rely on teamwork, which usually requires two people. They make the repair but immediately separate once the task is complete.”

Around EPWater, a portion of the workforce began working from home, if their responsibilities could be performed remotely. Other workers resumed essential duties at the office.

Senior Secretary Liz Parra, one of the few in her department not working remotely, is busy balancing new electronic procedures in Project Management.

“It’s been pretty hectic,” Parra said. “We’ll make it through this and hopefully be more efficient than we were before.”

Photo courtesy EPWater

New social-distancing guidelines required new accommodations for some Customer Service employees across EPWater.

“We spread out employees to adhere to the guidelines,” said Mark Bolduc, Business and Customer Service Manager. “Some are working remotely, some remain in the call center, and some are spread across the Hawkins building. These measures help us to minimize risks to everyone as much as possible and still keep services flowing for our customers.”

With new safety protocols in place, EPWater continues to monitor the COVID-19 crisis and respond.

The Public Service Board meeting on April 8 was held via teleconference and the public was urged to listen to the audio stream.

Across the utility, employees are doing their part to stay positive.

“The Employee Assistance Program is still available for employees,” said Ana Sanchez, Utility Human Resources Manager. “I experience fear like everyone else, but it is important to have faith that we will get through this. This is temporary. As one of my favorite sayings goes, this too shall pass.”

Above all, senior leaders at the utility are grateful for employees’ steadfast dedication and teamwork to keep taps flowing.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our staff for coming together during this extremely challenging time,” said Marcela Navarrete, Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services. “We ask everyone to keep themselves safe and healthy by continuing to practice social distancing, washing hands often and staying home if sick. The community is counting on us to continue to provide services, and I know we will not fail them.”

To follow the latest updates on how EPWater is responding to COVID-19, click here.

EP Water rolls out ‘Water Smarter’ campaign

For nearly 30 years, El Pasoans have been doing their part to conserve the most precious resource in the Chihuahuan Desert, now El Paso Water expands the successful water conservation program.

As part of the new Water Smarter campaign, El Paso Water is encouraging customers to water smarter as warmer temperatures arrive. The campaign aims to empower customers with tips to save water around their homes while also saving money on their monthly water bills.

“Because of our successful campaign and educational programs, El Pasoans have embraced conservation,” said Anai Padilla, Water Conservation Manager. “However, it is always a good idea to remind our customers that we live in a desert and water is our most valuable resource.”

As temperatures climb, El Pasoans start preparing their gardens for the spring, and warmer temperatures increase the demand for water.

April marks the beginning of the time-of-day watering schedule, which allows residents to water their landscapes up to three times a week before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Officials say that following this schedule reduces water loss from evaporation.

Even-numbered addresses may water Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays. Odd-numbered addresses may water Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No residential watering is allowed Mondays.

In addition to the watering guidelines, planting and maintaining water-friendly plants is key.

“Take a look around El Paso, and it’s evident that water conservation is a way of life,” EP Water officials shared. “Shady, colorful desert plants dot landscapes across the city, where large, water-wasting lawns are no longer the standard.”

Small changes have a huge impact when transforming your garden into a water-efficient desert landscape. Local nurseries, as opposed to big chain stores, specialize in native plants, Padilla said.

Padilla suggested the following tips:

  • Select plants adapted to El Paso’s climate and know your soil type.
  • Water shrubs using drip irrigation, where possible.
  • Use mulches to eliminate water loss through evaporation.

In addition to conservation, re-use of household water is another way to save, Padilla offered a few simple tips.

“Use cooled water after cooking pasta or leftover ice cubes to water your plants,” she said. “Also, replace plumbing fixtures with those that are stamped with the WaterSense logo, similar to ENERGY STAR for energy efficiency.”

As part of the campaign, EPWater invites customers to join the movement and show us how they are watering smarter.

Please share your photos with us, demonstrating how you are doing your part to conserve water. Use the hashtag #WaterSmarterEP so we can follow along on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Participants may be eligible to receive promotional materials.

For more information on how to water smarter both indoors and outdoors, visit EP Water’s conservation page.

To learn more about desert-friendly plants, visit www.elpasodesertblooms.org, EPWater’s interactive site that offers many ideas to create a beautiful, water-efficient garden in the Chihuahuan Desert.

El Paso Water awarded $2.05m grant to expand Hutchison Desalination Plant

Wednesday afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbot announced $14.1 million in grants to Texas military communities, with El Paso and El Paso Water landing a portion of the grant money.

El Paso Water officials say they are the beneficiary of $2.05 million for the expansion of El Paso Water’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant.

When he made the announcement, Governor Abbott stated that “now more than ever  this support is critical as military installations in Texas add $101 billion to the state’s economy and support, directly and indirectly, more than 224,000 jobs in communities across this great state.”

“El Paso Water and the Fort Bliss Public Works Directorate have collaborated to develop a set of joint priorities to improve water and mission resiliency,” said John Balliew, EPWater President and CEO. “The KBH Plant expansion is the number one priority identified that will benefit both Fort Bliss and the City of El Paso. We thank Fort Bliss and the City of El Paso for collaborating with us on this grant application.”

Utility officials released the following statement:

El Paso Water is pleased with the Governor’s announcement today that El Paso Water has been awarded $2.05 million toward expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination (KBH) Plant.

Along with the $2.05 awarded from the Bureau of Reclamation, the grant will double the utility’s investment of $4.1 million to help with the Blend Well Collector Pipeline Project, which is the first step in the two-part expansion of KBH.

The $8.2 million project will enable construction of a pipeline to deliver source water that is approximately 7 miles away into the KBH plant. The second phase of the expansion will be the addition of a fifth reverse osmosis skid.

When both parts of the expansion are complete, KBH will have a production capacity of 33.5 million gallons (MGD) per day. Its current capacity is 27.5 MGD.

The grant award was announced Wednesday by Governor Greg Abbott. El Paso is one of six Texas military communities selected to receive Defense Economic Adjustment Assistant Grant  (DEAAG) from the Texas Military Preparedness Commission (TMPC).

EP Water officials: Partially treated wastewater spill at plant reported to TCEQ

El Paso Water officials say a ‘significant leak’ at their South-Central wastewater plant on Wednesday was cleaned up and reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

According to EP Water, a contractor working on improvements at the Haskell R. Street Wastewater Plant had problems with bypass pumping that feeds partially treated wastewater into the plant at approximately 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25.

Officials say this event resulted in a significant leak, causing an estimated 200,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater to spill onto the plant at 4100 Delta Drive and a small portion of Boone Street.

No storm drains, waterways or public drinking water supplies were impacted or are at risk as a result of the spill.*

*Persons using private drinking water supply wells located within 1/2-mile of the spill site or within the potentially affected area should use only water that has been distilled or boiled at a rolling boil for at least one minute for all personal uses including drinking, cooking, bathing and tooth brushing. Individuals with private water wells should have their well water tested and disinfected, if necessary, prior to discontinuing distillation or boiling.

Crews have already cleaned up the wastewater that spilled onto Boone Street and completed disinfection. They are still working to clean up small amounts at the Haskell Plant and pump it back into the facility for full treatment.

“Wastewater service is not affected, but nearby residents may experience increased plant odors,” EP Water officials shared.  “These odors do not pose a public health concern.”

El Paso Water notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) about the incident and this public notification is part of the requirements.

If the public has questions on the spill, they may contact David Ornelas, Wastewater Systems Division Manager at El Paso Water at 915-594-5730.

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.

New Action Plan aims to increase water recycling across the nation

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this week, the WateReuse Association joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, DC to unveil the National Water Reuse Action Plan, a collaborative effort that represents the first initiative of its magnitude to be coordinated across the water sector. Actions taken under this plan will bolster the sustainability, security and resilience of the nation’s water resources.

Gilbert Trejo, president of the WateReuse Association (WRA) and chief technical officer at El Paso Water, offered remarks and said that WRA has worked with the EPA and partners to solicit public input and stakeholder feedback so that Action Plan initiatives were both strategic and actionable.

“The WateReuse Association is dedicated to advancing water recycling across the nation,” Trejo said. “It was an honor to work with partners in the water sector on this Plan that I believe connects the dots, and offers bold and innovative solutions to our water resource challenges.”

Collaborating partners included the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, and the Water Research Foundation along with several federal agencies.

“We shared information, broke down silos and aligned and leveraged each other’s resources,” Trejo said. “This kind of partnership will have a lasting impact and clear a path toward significantly increasing the adoption and acceptance of water reuse in the coming years.”

Trejo highlighted El Paso’s history with reuse and a range of benefits from recycling water. Over three decades, EPWater has used water recycling to restore sensitive wetlands ecosystems, to cool power plants and to irrigate golf courses, city parks, school grounds, apartment landscapes, and construction and industrial sites. The results have conserved water and helped stabilize a declining aquifer.

Trejo said El Paso is leaning into the future with construction planned for an Advanced Water Purification Facility, which will purify 10 million gallons per day of reclaimed water to be pumped directly into the city’s distribution system.

“In our region, water reuse is a solution for drought resilience,” Trejo said. “But in other parts of the country, water reuse provides a solution to challenges that cities face when storm runoff impacts reservoirs, when water quality is not meeting standards, or when utility discharges have the potential to impact sensitive ecosystems. Water reuse is a 360 solution.”

The Action Plan includes clear commitments – 37 actions across 11 strategic themes – to further water reuse and help assure the sustainability, security and resilience of the nation’s water resources.

“While acknowledging significant accomplishments the agency and its partners have made in providing Americans with access to safe water, we also see emerging challenges that require collaborative and creative solutions,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Dave Ross.

“Together, we are leading efforts to address these challenges to protect public health and the environment while supporting the economy—today and for future generations.”

For more on water reuse, and to read the National Water Reuse Action Plan click here.

Female engineers climb leadership ranks at EP Water

With six female engineers at the helm of EP Water, diversity in leadership for women in the water sector can be described as a rising tide at the utility.

Irazema Rojas, Capital Improvement Program Manager, and Aide Fuentes, Wastewater Treatment Manager, are happy to welcome new engineers entering the fold at EPWater.  Rojas and Fuentes are only two of the six female engineers in leadership roles at the utility.

  • Water Production Manager Veronica Galindo
  • Engineering Division Manager Amy Castner for Water/Wastewater Engineering
  • Engineering Division Manager Adriana Castillo for Planning and Development
  • Engineering Division Manager Gisela Dagnino for Stormwater Engineering

All play an important role in the design and maintenance of EPWater’s water and wastewater systems and policy-making.

At EPWater, both Fuentes and Rojas found that stepping outside their initial job descriptions altered their career paths significantly.

Fuentes has been promoted in management twice at EPWater, first as Water Production Manager to her current role as Wastewater Treatment Manager. In her career, every day has been different, with not a dull moment in sight.

“It’s been fun,” Fuentes said. “I have seen construction, design, how we operate wells on the production side, how water distribution works and now I am getting to see the wastewater side.”

“I have had to be flexible – big time – and open to learning,” said Rojas, who rose from early ranks as an engineering co-op to becoming the highest ranked female engineer at EPWater. Rojas has held varied positions in management at EPWater, including Reclaimed Water Manager, Environmental Compliance Manager and her current position as Capital Improvement Manager.

Fuentes and Rojas are grateful for many opportunities and have relished each role at EPWater, including their current ones. They both concede they still have a lot to learn.

“As Wastewater Treatment Manager, I get to work with wastewater plants that are alive,” said Fuentes, adding she has enjoyed working with a variety of employees – from trades helper to engineers. “Seeing superintendents tweak their plants when troubleshooting and then seeing how the plant reacts in five to seven days has been interesting.”

“I have been part of changes in management, and I am very excited about the emphasis senior leaders are putting on safety; on knowledge, skills and abilities; as well as supporting employees to further their careers through education,” said Rojas, who has discovered through her many leadership roles that she is a numbers and people person. “It’s something that makes me proud to be part of this current management team.”

Both have similar advice for female engineers looking to make their mark at EPWater.

“Have fun,” Fuentes said. “If you are flexible and enjoy what you do, you will advance.”

“Life is full of surprises, and you never know what’s in store,” Rojas said. “I am taking opportunities as they come. You just have to be able to take chances.”

EPWater goes to great depths in Montana Vista project

When residents, elected officials and the leadership of El Paso Water decided to try to bring first-time wastewater service to Montana Vista, they knew it would be a tall order.

The colonia in far east El Paso had for decades relied on septic tanks.

Bringing the precious wastewater infrastructure to their neighborhood required thousands of resident signatures, a sanctioned health study, advocacy from local and state elected officials and $12.9 million in financial assistance from the Texas Water Development Board’s (TWDB) Economically Distressed Area Program (EDAP).

A tall order indeed. But now that the vision is a reality and construction is underway, it’s very evident that the project is also a deep order. Because a wastewater system is typically gravity-based, that gravity flow had to be designed.

To achieve the necessary four-degree slope, the deepest manholes at the bottom of the system are a whopping 30 feet deep.

“This depth makes it very difficult to install the manholes without affecting other utilities, street paving, and accessibility for the residents and emergency services,” said Sergio Adame, an engineer with Brock & Bustillos, the firm that designed the project.

Photo courtesy EPWater

“It’s also a slow process. But once we install the deeper manholes, production will speed up as we move up higher and higher toward the street level.”

Not starting at the proper level could lead to not having the needed inclination to have the gravity-based wastewater line. The depth of the low-point manholes also allows for a system without lift stations to pump the wastewater, maximizing the TWDB funds.

Irazema Rojas, Capital Improvement Program Manager, says that although the utility is proud of the technical and logistical aspects of the project, she is most proud of EPWater’s outreach efforts to the community.

“One of the rewarding things about our engineering field is that we can make lives better,” Rojas said. “Through everyone’s efforts, including our community partners, we are now delivering this very necessary service. I got to meet many of the residents and receive hugs and numerous thank-yous for bringing the service to their community. It’s very moving.”

Photo courtesy EPWater

 

Video+Story: Eastside stormwater project underway

Residents along Sam Snead Drive in El Paso are looking forward to improved flood control as El Paso Water overhauls the stormwater system in the Pico Norte area.

According to EP Water officials, during rain events, many of El Paso’s streets are designed to carry storm flows to stormwater ponds and pipes, which is the case for Sam Snead Drive.

“However, Sam Snead collects storm flows from the larger surrounding area, and sometimes the intensity causes streets to become inundated,” officials shared. “A 2014 rain event that dropped a significant amount of water in the area washed cars and trash bins into the Pico Norte Pond and illustrated the urgency for improvements. This event coupled with new evaluation data elevated the project to become one of the top stormwater priorities to increase public safety and protect homes and businesses in East El Paso.”

In Phase 1 of the improvements, $1.9 million was invested in excavating the Pico Norte Pond. Phase 2 will apply an additional $7.3 million to relocate Sam Snead’s stormwater system underground and increase its carrying capacity.

“Anyone who’s been around this neighborhood knows that the streets can flood when it rains,” said EPWater Project Manager Ryan Stubbs. “This project will move that water off the streets, into an underground tunnel and increase public safety for those who live and travel through here.”

A new 2,200-foot box culvert tunnel is being constructed under Sam Snead from the Pico Norte Pond to Lee Trevino Drive. Drop inlets will be installed in the center of the road to allow stormwater to drain from the street and into the underground system.

The tunnel will have the potential to send over 350,000 gallons per minute of stormwater to the Pico Norte Pond.

“The road right now is configured like a channel, so the water flows toward the center of the road,” said Mark Medina, project manager for Moreno Cardenas Inc. “That’s where all the inlets will capture the water, drain it out of the street, discharge it into the culvert and then into the pond.”

“The public will see some improvements in the center of the street with the inlets, but the majority of the work will be underground,” said Saul Trejo, construction manager for Moreno Cardenas Inc.

EPWater is planning for future stormwater improvements to the area. Designs are underway for another stormwater tunnel along Bywood Drive.

The Bywood tunnel will be able to send another 350,000 gallons per minute of stormwater underground to the pond.

Aging EP Water infrastructure to undergo vital rehab, upgrades

El Paso Water and their construction and maintenance crews are set to embark on several projects aimed at their aging distribution and treatment systems.

“We have begun work on projects to fortify EPWater’s treatment plants’ operational assets and maintain and improve service to one of El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods,” EP Water officials shared.

“We depend on a network of underground pipes, pumps and valves to deliver reliable, high-quality water to our customers,” officials said,  “It’s critical for EPWater to protect our aging water and wastewater systems so we can maintain the highest quality water and services for our customers.”

With 2,806 miles of water lines, as well as 2,326 miles of wastewater lines, EP Water crews mus remain vigilant, as well as proactive to ensure the reliability of the system’s infrastructure.

“Our work continues to replace EPWater’s inventory of pipelines, as well as performing condition assessments and establishing asset management practices to more efficiently replace older pipes with more modern materials that are less prone to breaks,” water officials shared via a news release.

According to EP Water officials, over the past three years, their crews have replaced approximately 115 miles of water mains and 93 miles of wastewater mains, however they add that “much work remains as additional funds will be used to significantly further our progress underground.”

Aside from water and wastewater lines, crews also have plans to improve system reliability with the rehabilitation of water and wastewater pump stations to save energy, as well as furthering their progress on odor control.

Three of El Paso’s wastewater treatment facilities – Haskell R.Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, John T. Hickerson Water Reclamation Facility and the Roberto R. Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant – will undergo major upgrades to improve efficiency, performance and odor control.

Some of the other key rehabilitation projects in both water and wastewater include:
  • Sunset Heights: The historic area, established in the 1890s, is due for more water and wastewater pipe replacements. Several thousands of feet of pipes have been replaced over the past 10 years, and more are planned to improve water and wastewater services for residents.  Because the area sits on rocky terrain, we will work to minimize the impact of construction and any other types of disruptions to customers.
  • Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant: Various improvements, including odor-control projects, have helped to extend the lifespan of this historic plant, and more are planned. Built in 1923, the plant treats 27.7 million gallons a day and is due for wastewater rehabilitation work.
  • Robertson/Umbenhauer Water Treatment Plant: The historic plant also known as the Canal Plant, which produces more than 40 million gallons a day, will undergo long-term structural repairs, improvements to the disinfectant handling and storage system, as well as the replacement of raw river water intake screens.
“Please bear with us as we work to address critical projects to advance our water and wastewater system for the 21st century, officials added. “The recent rate increase will help us continue to ensure long-term sustainability as well as safe, reliable and high-quality water and service for El Paso’s future.”

PSB approves 2020-21 Proposed Budget, Rates and Fees; Average increase of $2.81 per homeowner

On Tuesday, the Public Service Board (PSB) approved the Fiscal Year 2020-21 Stormwater and Water/Wastewater budgets at their monthly meeting.

The budget includes no increase in stormwater fees, a 5% increase in water fees, and a 5% increase in wastewater fees.

The combined $493 million budget will result in an average increase of $2.81 per month for the typical homeowner.

“The Public Service Board is constantly searching for a balance between our responsibility to provide our customers with a quality product at a reasonable price on the one hand, and necessary maintenance and improvements to water infrastructure as well as the development of future water supplies on the other hand, particularly given the fact that we live in such an arid region,” said PSB Chairman Chris Antcliff.

“Today, the PSB adopted a budget that minimizes the impact on our customers as much as possible while keeping our community on a path of long-term water resiliency.”

Via a news release, PSB officials said that four priorities are driving the increase to budget and rates.

“Securing our future water supply, system expansion for city growth, improvements in customer services and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure. Investments in these areas will support long-term sustainability and reliability for EPWater customers.”

Officials added that major capital projects for the new fiscal year include launching an expansion of the Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, upgrading our treatment system at the Canal plant in Chihuahuita, and beginning expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant.

Work will continue to complete stormwater flood control projects already underway.

“El Paso, like other cities, sets their rates on how much it costs to provide the service,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “As we’ve needed to diversify our water supply to keep up with growth demands, that cost to provide the service has increased. But we have to seek alternative water supplies to continue as a viable community. Additionally, our budget makes sure that the infrastructure we have in place doesn’t continue to get older and older.”

Via a news release, officials said that, when compared to Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, “EPWater’s monthly charges are the second-lowest of large Texas cities; only Laredo’s water rates are lower.”

EPWater’s rate structure will continue to provide relief for low-water users while charging more for high-water users. Customers using less than 4 ccfs* (2,992 gallons) of water in any given month will receive a waiver of the $11.04 Water Supply Replacement Charge.

Last year, the charge was waived on about 33,000 monthly customer bills.

EPWater will also continue its partnership with Amistad to help low-income senior customers with bill payment assistance, conservation, and money management counseling. Customers interested in these services through Amistad can call at 915-532-3790.

The budgets, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2020.

Auctions bear cash from utility’s trash

Need a dragon head, most recently featured on El Paso Water’s 2018 award-winning parade float? Or how about a small fishing boat, last used to gather water samples at the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant?

The boat has sold, but luckily, the dragon head is still available to the public on govdeals.com, where EPWater’s Property Control department auctions off used items the utility no longer needs.

Property Control Officer Rudy Vargas and Materials Specialist Luis Nieto know one utility’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The process begins when Vargas and Nieto perform inventory audits across EPWater. Once they are done, Vargas and Nieto usually end up acquiring discarded items from the utility’s 45 departments.

“It’s stuff that has sat at our facilities for many years,” said Margaret Carrillo, Office Manager. “It’s stuff usually left in a junk pile off to the side.”

“We tell employees, “If you don’t use it, give it to us and we may find someone to use it or we can sell it in auction,” Vargas said.

Since Property Control began selling old utility property 3½ years ago, the public auctions have brought in over $100,000 in additional operational funds for the utility, Carrillo said. The auctions have reached buyers across the U.S., as well as in Mexico, Guatemala and Canada. Buyers are usually re-sellers, Vargas and Nieto said.

The hot-ticket items for sale are laptops, personal computers, radios and tools. The items no one wants? Desks and chairs.

“We sold a 1950s-era John Deere tractor to a farmer who came all the way from Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, to pick it up,” Nieto said. “He wanted it for parts, which are hard to find.”

The monthly auctions have become so successful Vargas and Nieto sometimes work on Saturdays to add auctions onto the site.

If an item doesn’t sell after three times, they will scrap it. But items usually sell.

Vargas and Nieto decide the opening bid and let the auction do its work.

“There are times I put an item up at $6, and it sells at $1,000,” Nieto said. “It didn’t sell in a previous auction, but you just never know.”

To access auctions, enter El Paso Water in the search field at govdeals.com.

With Phase 1 complete, EPWater provides update on Pico Norte Stormwater projects

The night of Sept. 18, 2014 was an unforgettable monsoon day for residents living in the Pico Norte area, especially for those along Bywood Drive, Escarpa Drive and Pico Norte Road.

The seasonal rains were so rapid and heavy on that particular evening, three drivers and their cars were swept into a nearby storm pond, along with hundreds of trash and recycle bins. Thankfully, the El Paso Fire Department safely rescued the drivers. Since then, El Paso Water has been working to improve flood control in the area.

“We invested $1.9 million in the first phase of Pico Norte Stormwater Pond improvements,” said Alan Shubert, Vice-President of Operations and Technical Services. “The pond can now receive a lot more water from flooded streets.”

The first phase included excavating and expanding the pond, improving the pond slopes and drainage structures and installing a new rock wall perimeter with wrought iron to replace the chain link fence that was swept away by the strong currents.

With the improvements completed by EPWater in 2016, the City of El Paso was able to complete a hydraulic study and a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) application with FEMA.

As a result, over 1,100 properties were officially removed from the FEMA flood zone.

“Phase one will take the water from the streets, but what we are working on now is adding drain lines and drop inlets to pick the water up before the streets flood,” Shubert said.

Phase two of the project will now improve the Sam Snead Storm Drain from Pico Norte Road to Lee Trevino Drive. This is an additional investment of $6.3 million. Completion of the construction is estimated for Fall of 2020. Phase three will improve the Bywood Drive drainage system.

“This project demonstrates our stormwater fees at work,” said Gisela Dagnino, Stormwater Engineering Division Manager. “Our most important goal is to provide public safety, and this project is a perfect example.”

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