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El Paso Water to Assist Furloughed Workers

On Wednesday afternoon, officials with El Paso Water announced plans to assist furloughed workers who have missed paychecks due to the government shutdown.

EPWater will assist any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill. Appropriate identification and verification of furloughed status is required so EPWater can suspend water shut-offs and offer payment deferments and/or flexible payment plans.

Affected customers should email customer.service@epwater.org with the following information: a copy of their ID or pay stub to verify they are a federal employee, their account number and a phone number or email to reach them.

They are asked to type “Furloughed worker” in the subject line.

Customers may also visit the customer service center at 6400 Boeing Drive, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

El Paso Water Inspectors Take on Fats, Oils and Grease

El Paso Water’s Kyle Eckert and Luis Velasquez have heard all about the giant ball of grease – weighing 130 tons – that recently threatened to flood London’s streets with wastewater.

The pretreatment inspectors for Environmental Compliance and Industrial Pretreatment want you to know that EPWater is working toward a cleaner city one drain at a time.

Utility FOG inspectors aim to make sure London’s problem doesn’t become El Paso’s by educating restaurant staffs across the city. Their goal is to prevent wastewater blockages by teaching El Pasoans how to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease (FOG).

London’s giant mass – aka fatberg – formed when cooking oil and other fats were flushed down drains. From there, flushed FOG accumulated with other discarded materials , such as wipes and diapers.

The message is simple, Eckert said. “Be informed, be aware of what you are dumping down the drain and how it will impact the

Photo courtesy EP Water

community,” Eckert tells restaurant owners and managers.

Both Eckert and Velasquez have worked at wastewater plants and are familiar with the damage FOG can wreak.

“People want information on FOG,” Velasquez said. “The people we talk to want to know what’s wrong, how it’s wrong and how they can fix it.”

“We work very hard to minimize the impacts to the wastewater system, but we must rely heavily on individuals and businesses taking personal responsibility for what is poured down their drains,” said Sonia Wyatt, Code Compliance Manager.

During an inspection to a popular bakery on the East Side, Eckert trained Velasquez on EPWater’s FOG program, which regulates the discharge, transportation and disposal of FOG. Both checked the bakery’s grease trap to ensure compliance standards had been met.

What they found, though, was a grease trap brimming with fats, food waste and red chile sauce, the kind used for menudo and red chile tamales.

Photo courtesy EP Water

“It can get bad enough that the grease trap or pipe can no longer do its job,” Eckert said.

The FOG inspectors’ message is especially important Inspectors find FOGaround the holiday season when El Pasoans are cooking. The message is relevant year-round, Eckert said. EPWater reminds customers about the consequences of not heeding this advice with the “Defend Your Drains” outreach campaign.

One of the best ways to enforce the FOG message is by passing on the knowledge that comes with the job, Eckert said. It also helps if you have a captive audience, like the students at Ramona Elementary students on a recent visit.

“If you tell a child, they will tell their parents as soon as they get home,” Velasquez said. “They will make sure that their parents are disposing of FOG the right way.”

For more information, visit the EP Water page on FOG.

Sandbag Distribution Program Returns to Regular Schedule

With rain moving into the area, El Paso Water officials remind residents that there is only one location to pick up sandbags in the city.

The Stormwater Operations Center, located at 4801 Fred Wilson, is open throughout the year. Customers can get sandbags between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The limit is 10 bags per visit. Please bring a copy of your water bill.

Persons who cannot lift heavy items should be accompanied by someone who can assist with loading and unloading the bags.

The Central location was closed for the season at the end of September. All seasonal satellite sites will reopen next summer.

Sandbag Distribution Sites
Through Oct. 5 Beginning Oct. 6
Northeast Stormwater Operations Center

4801 Fred Wilson Ave. (map)

Mon-Fri: 8AM-8PM

Sat-Sun: 2PM-8PM

Mon-Fri: 8AM-4PM

Sat-Sun: Closed

West Artcraft Booster Station

7830 Paseo Del Norte (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
Central Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant

913 S. Boone St. (map)

Closed Closed
East Cielo Vista Booster Station

9428 Daugherty Drive (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
Mission Valley Blackie Chesher Park

9292 Escobar Drive (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed

Video+Story: Mural of Chihuahuita, Water Plant Unveiled to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

On Thursday, El Paso Water threw open the doors at the W.E. Robertson Water Treatment Plant in honor of the plant’s 75th anniversary.

Chihuahuita neighbors, former employees and water sector professionals streamed inside, eager to tour the historic yet pioneering plant, as mariachis and folklorico dancers provided entertainment.

“This plant represents the foresight of city individuals who dedicated their lives to ensure that El Paso has a continuous, safe and sustainable supply of water,” said President and CEO John Balliew, who fondly recalled beginning his utility career at the plant’s laboratory more than 30 years ago. “We had a great group of employees back then, just as we have now.”

Public Service Board member Dr. Kristina Mena spoke about the importance of river water and what it means to El Paso’s water supply. The water treatment plant came online during a time of remarkable growth for the borderland.

Residents faced crime, growth, health and environmental challenges, some linked to water quality and supply.

“This beautiful plant marked El Paso’s first step to diversify its water supply so El Paso could thrive and sustain itself,” Mena said. “The importance of river water cannot be understated. Today, El Paso relies on river water for half its water supply in a non-drought year.”

EPWater commissioned a painting by local, acclaimed artist Patrick Gabaldon to mark the occasion. The painting features the close relationship between colorful Chihuahuita and the water treatment plant.

“Although the community did have to part with some of their cherished sites to make room for the construction of this plant in the 1940s, within time many in Chihuahuita came to accept the plant and understand that it was necessary because it would benefit the city,” said Christina Montoya, Communications and Marketing Director. “Many residents also took jobs at the plant.”

Chihuahuita Neighborhood Association leader Manuela Rodriguez couldn’t contain her excitement once inside the plant.

“Just walking in brought a lot of memories of my dad who worked here for a long time,” she said. “We fished back here.”

The painting was the cherry on top and a nice personal touch, she said.

“What caught my eye was the poles of red, white and blue because my brother and the neighborhood decided to paint all the poles around the neighborhood with the colors of the flag when 9/11 happened.”

To benefit community improvement projects identified by the Chihuahuita Neighborhood Association, signed prints of the painting were sold during the event and will still be available, with funds collected by the El Paso Community Foundation.

From the left – John Balliew – Kristina Mena – Manuela Rodriguez

Video+Story: EPWater Honors ‘The Shack’ Restaurant for Mastering Water-Smart Habits

The Shack Wings & Brews Restaurant has always been committed to saving water, but the owners never thought they would be honored for it.

“It’s a surprise to us, and we’re grateful for the recognition because we believe in conserving water,” Co-Owner Adrian Soto said.

El Paso Water recognized The Shack Wings & Brews, located at 1883 N. Zaragoza, at its 2018 Conservation Hero event at the El Paso Chihuahuas’ baseball game.

“Of all the restaurants here in El Paso, to come out on top… wow,” General Manager Jaime Garcia said. “It’s a good feeling.”

The Shack – as well as 52 other restaurants – were screened and evaluated to become Certified Water Partners. Criteria included the responsible disposal of fats, oils and grease to protect wastewater systems, water efficient faucets, toilets, washing machines and more.

“The more water efficient products used, the bigger the point value,” said Norma Guzman, EPWater Water Conservation Specialist. “We tally up all those points and if they’ve reached a certain benchmark, then we can certify them as a partner.”

Based on scoring, The Shack ranked the highest in terms of water conservation.

Garcia has been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years and attributes the restaurant’s success to foresight and attention to detail.

“We were willing to spend a little more money to buy the commodes,” Garcia said. “We considered whether it would help us save money in the long run, and as you can see it paid off.”

Garcia said leaking faucets also have to be addressed immediately. “It’s amazing how much water you can lose with just one leaking faucet.”

For restaurants considering becoming a Certified Water Partner, Soto said, “Do your part to conserve. Every little thing counts. I thought I was the small guy in the industry, and we made an impact.”

Though restaurants can see an immediate return on water bill savings, conservation also helps ensure a sustainable water supply for El Paso’s future.

“It shows a partnership, that we’re all in it together – it’s not just residential and individual people,” Guzman said.

For more information, visit EPWater’s Conservation Heroes and Certified Water Partner pages.

Video+Story: Technology Spurs EP Water’s Odor Control Projects

Times and technology have changed El Paso Water’s Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, and so have the complaints regarding odor control.

In 2012, EP Water commissioned a report to identify odor control solutions. One the results were in, crews began implementation of those solutions shortly thereafter. With the new technology – and the 29 workers at the plant, on Delta Drive south of the El Paso County Coliseum – EP Water was able cut the number of homes affected by the odors from 21,000 to 5,000, a reduction of odor by 75 percent.

Utility officials say that, “Building on past efforts, recent projects continue to reduce the number of homes affected by odors, and further improvements are imminent….EPWater has made vast improvements over the decades, and neighbors have noticed.”

Now EPWater officials say they are in the middle of the latest and “most significant upgrades” at the 95-year-old plant, which provides services to nearly 150,000 customers in Central El Paso and Fort Bliss.

“We have revised the odor control master plan, incorporated technological advancements, and began installations and replacements to further decrease odors from the plant.”

The latest round of the first of five odor control projects started in 2015, with de-grit facilities. Chemicals added to wastewater mains came next and was completed in 2017. The third project, associated with the rehabilitation of four primary clarifiers, is nearing completion.

“We are confident that two remaining future projects will practically eliminate odors for the Haskell plant’s neighbors: a headworks project, as well as an aeration channel cover and dewatering project,” officials shared.  “Combating odors at EPWater’s wastewater treatment plants is a long-term, solid investment…administering odor-control solutions improves working conditions for our employees and enhances quality of life for the community.”

El Paso Water Rolls out New Technology to Help Maintain Water Infrastructure

Technology is making waves at El Paso Water, as the utility modernizes for the future by embracing robotic crawlers and emerging  and ‘trenchless technologies’ that are changing the way crews manage El Paso’s aging infrastructure.

EPWater officials say their push for modernization comes, in part, from “strategic directions prioritized in our 10-year Strategic Plan.”

“We are committed to improving El Paso’s water and stormwater infrastructure, and modernizing equipment and technologies that contribute to increased efficiencies and productivity.”

Stormwater operations employees rave about the new MiniDozer, which can carry a half-ton of debris and do the work of a six-person crew to clear waterways. The MiniDozer also makes it safer for Stormwater employees who work year-round to keep systems free of debris.

Now a crew of three workers, with one operating the MiniDozer via a remote control that resembles a video game control with joysticks, does the work of a crew of six workers with wheelbarrows and shovels.

Another innovative tool is the ‘G3 crawler,’ which uses electromagnetism to detect potential breaks in EPWater’s major water mains. The tethered robot crawls along the bottom of a water line, recording video for inspection of the pipe’s interior.

With the G3 Crawler, speed and cost savings are paramount.

“The cost-effective technology allows our crew members to get to the root of problems quickly and avoid service disruptions. The remote-controlled robot can pinpoint problem areas, helping crews to avoid costly replacement of entire pipes,” officials stated.

EPWater employees also consider trenchless technologies another low-impact and money-saving option to repair our stressed infrastructure. In recent projects, the utility has employed pipe bursting and Insituform.

• In pipe bursting, specialized equipment pulls a bullet-shaped metal cone through the old pipe, bursting it along the way. The new pipe is fed through the space, and the shards of the old pipe are safely left buried. The process only requires digging up a small area on either end of the pipe, substantially decreasing road closures. The process is twice as fast as the traditional cutting method and offers a 30 percent cost savings.

• Insituform uses cured-in-place pipe technology – a pipe within a pipe – with little to no digging. This more environmentally friendly technology has renewed pipelines beneath interstates and busy roadways without disrupting traffic. This technology was recently used to replace a collapsed stormwater pipe on Belvidere Street in west El Paso.

“EPWater’s technological toolbox will continue to grow as we explore innovative techniques to best serve customers, manage facilities and fund infrastructure improvements,” officials added.

El Paso Water’s ‘Certified Water Partner’ Program Rolls into 2018

In May of 2017, El Paso Water started a new program that allows local businesses to become a Certified Water Partner and showcase El Paso Water’s recognition of their water conservation efforts.

“It’s a constant reinforcement of water conservation,” said Norma Guzman, a certified water specialist for El Paso Water. “It shows a partnership, that we’re all in it together. It’s important to go beyond just conserving water at home.”

These businesses have met best practice criteria such as installing water efficient kitchen equipment, faucets, and toilets, while protecting wastewater systems with responsible fats and grease disposal.

Tabla is one of the newest businesses to be certified, and Sous Chef Jason Lucero is thrilled at the progress they’ve made in the kitchen.
“We’re always able to turn on a faucet without knowing exactly how much water we’re using, and being more conscious of it has helped how much we waste,” said Lucero.

EP Water officials add that for a business to become a Certified Water Partner, they must be local, have their own meter, utilize best practices for water efficiency and have a responsible fats and grease disposal system.

With 25 partners since the start of the program, Guzman said she’s happy with the positive impact the program is having on the community. In addition to recognizing restaurants that have good practices in conservation, El Paso Water also advises restaurants that don’t meet criteria how they can do even more to save water by helping them develop a plan of action to qualify for certification.

“We’ll come back at no charge and at their convenience. We clearly tell them where they missed the mark, what they need to do. We’re happy to go back to see progress and whether they have done what it takes to be certified, because we want them to save water,” said Guzman.

She stresses that all the information gathered during inspection for certification is kept confidential and at no time involves enforcement or penalties of any kind. Participation is strictly voluntary.

Photos of all Certified Water Partners are posted and tagged on El Paso Water Facebook and Twitter pages at least a few times a year. A short video also features some of the Partners. The publicity aims to publicly recognize these restaurants for their efforts, with hopes that other will follow.

More information on the program can be found online  by selecting the conservation tab, and then clicking on the Certified Water Partner logo.

El Paso Water Crews Begin Next Phase of Kentucky Dam Project

Starting Wednesday, El Paso Water will close Alabama Street, from Wheeling Avenue to Richmond Avenue, to all traffic for several weeks to complete the next phase of the Kentucky Dam stormwater improvement project.

During the closure, crews will replace the water mains in the closed off area and install new stormwater lines, improving services and flood safety for the area.

Drivers for both directions of traffic will be able to detour around the construction by driving over to Piedras Street and then back onto Alabama via Wheeling or Richmond.

The $3.9 million project will help reduce flooding in Central El Paso. The project will increase the capacity of nearby ponds and add piping that keeps water off the streets by directing stormwater into the dam.

Additionally, the project will improve service in the area by replacing water and wastewater lines.

 

EP Water: Sandbag Distribution Program will Move to Regular Schedule

El Paso Water announces that the last day to pick up sandbags at the satellite distribution sites will be Sunday, October 1 at 8pm. Seasonal satellite sites will reopen next summer.

The Stormwater Operations Center, located at 4801 Fred Wilson, is open throughout the year.

EP Water officials remind customers that they can get sandbags Monday through Friday between 8AM – 4PM beginning Monday, Oct. 2nd.

Sandbags are for flood control purposes only and limited to 10 sandbags per visit.

People who have difficulty lifting heavy items are encouraged to come with someone who can assist with loading and unloading.

Sandbag Distribution Sites
Through Oct. 1 Beginning Oct. 2
Northeast Stormwater Operations Center

4801 Fred Wilson Ave. (map)

Mon-Fri: 8AM-8PM

Sat-Sun: 2PM-8PM

Mon-Fri: 8AM-4PM

Sat-Sun: Closed

West Artcraft Booster Station

7830 Paseo Del Norte (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
Central Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant

913 S. Boone St. (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
East Cielo Vista Booster Station

9428 Daugherty Drive (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
Mission Valley Blackie Chesher Park

9292 Escobar Drive (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed

 

EPWater Employees, Sponsors Raise $55K for Opportunity Center for Homeless

For Yesenia Castro, it was the bittersweet culmination of a months-long labor of love when the 2017 El Paso Water Charity of Choice chairwoman presented a check for $55,000 to the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

The money from the EPWater employee fundraising campaign will benefit the center’s La Casa de las Abuelitas, which houses single women ages 55 and older at 1318 Myrtle Ave.

The campaign bested the original utility goal of $40,000 and the previous years’ efforts.

“I just want to say thank you,” said Ray Tullius, co-founder of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, during the check presentation. “It’s amazing to see the spirit of the organization; you don’t see that in a corporation. We saw passion all through these events, and I just thank you so much for the spirit that you focused on our operation.”

Since 2009, EPWater employees have raised more than $275,000 for local charities. Past partners have included the Salvation Army of El Paso, USO and the Children’s Grief Center of El Paso.

The process began in January when the Charity of Choice committee of employees met to select a local nonprofit organization as the beneficiary. The check presentation was part of Wednesday, September 13th’s Public Service Board meeting.

Once their choice was approved by the PSB, the fundraising campaign kicked off in February with a flurry of events organized by employees, which included a fishing derby, a karaoke standoff and a sand volleyball tournament. Events wrapped up in late August with a golf tournament, sponsored by Touchstone Golf, that raised a portion of funds.

“I loved the experience,” said Castro wistfully, about seeing the campaign end. “It’s been very rewarding and really fun seeing people get involved.”

Some of the events even featured a few of the abuelitas, or grandmothers, from the shelter.

Now that the Charity of Choice campaign is over, Castro is hopeful that EPWater employees will recall the mission accomplished for La Casa de las Abuelitas.

“I hope people will not forget about the Opportunity Center for the Homeless,” Castro said. “Whether they can volunteer or donate, justspreading the word is extremely helpful.”

Horacio Martinez, Stormwater General Services Lead Worker, said it was his third year being involved with Charity of Choice and that it was a pleasure being a part of the committee this year.

“Sometimes we complain about our situations, but now we really know there are people that need even the basic things in their lives,” he said.

For more information on the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, please click here.

EP Water Set to Close Portions of Scenic Drive for Stormwater Project

Starting Monday, August 14, El Paso Water will close Scenic Drive from Wheeling Avenue to Alabama, to all traffic for several weeks to complete the next phase of the Kentucky Dam stormwater improvement project.

The $3.9 million project will help reduce flooding in Central El Paso. The project will increase the capacity of nearby ponds and add piping that keeps water off the streets by directing stormwater into the dam.

Additionally, the project will improve service in the area by replacing water and wastewater lines.

Short sections of neighboring streets will be restricted to local traffic during construction:

  • Streets between Scenic Drive and Alabama
  • Streets between Wheeling Avenue and Altura Avenue

Drivers will still be able to enter and exit Scenic Drive by detouring around the closure on Alabama Street and turning north onto Wheeling Avenue.

Singapore Utility Officials Tour EP Water Facilities

They are worlds apart, but El Paso Water shares common ground with their counterparts in Singapore in water reuse developments.

Three representatives of PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, visited Monday to discuss El Paso Water’s advances in water treatment processes and to tour the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant, 11700 Railroad.

“Largely, Singapore is viewed as a leader in water reuse across the world, so for them to come to El Paso and to want to learn from us is a real honor,” said Gilbert Trejo, utility chief technical officer.

Dr. Mong Hoo Lim, (from left) Jireh Yew and Ervia Huang of PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, tour the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant, 11700 Railroad Drive, and learn about the plant water purification processes from Martin Ortiz, assistant superintendent.

Dr. Mong Hoo Lim, chief specialist of PUB Water Quality, microbiologist Ervia Huang and Jireh Yew, senior planner, exchanged information with El Paso Water about their water reuse programs, Trejo said.

“Our visit was very informative, and we had a great time,” Huang said.
PUB officials, including Lim, first visited EPWater in 2015 to seek information on reclaimed water.

“We learned that there really are some differences in how we are both approaching water reuse,” Trejo said.

El Paso Water frequently fields inquiries from other national and international utilities, often seeking information not only about water reuse, but the methods in which the company provides water to the City of El Paso.

EPWater officials welcome those requests and see opportunities to learn from others.

“All of these water companies and utilities across the world are just trying to provide clean drinking water to their customers and their residents, so we are all in the same boat,” Trejo said. “There is like a brotherhood between all of us.”

“We freely share information because they could take something that we are doing, advance it and come back and teach us what they did with our information,” he added.

Author: Martha Koester – EP Water, Internal Communications Coordinator 

El Paso Water Receives $150K for Aquifer Recharge Feasibility Study

El Paso Water received notice last week that it will be awarded $150,000 in funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for developing a feasibility plan to increase its aquifer recharge efforts by six-fold.

The proposed plan will make El Paso’s water supply more resilient to drought and help preserve the Hueco Bolson for future generations.

Public Service Board Chair Henry Gallardo previewed EPWater’s expansion plan Friday as part of his keynote speech at the 7th Annual WateReuse Texas Conference, hosted here in El Paso this year. “By redirecting excess river water supplies to our Hueco Bolson aquifer in non-drought years, we can put additional water supplies in the ‘bank’ so that we can make necessary withdrawals during times of drought.”

Local aquifers serve as El Paso’s most dependable source of water, but long-term sustainability calls for limiting reliance on this source.

Water from the Rio Grande provides El Paso’s water source during the other half of the year but can be subject to drought conditions. During droughts, river water can be reduced from a six month supply to a mere weeks or few months. This requires an increase in aquifer pumping to meet water demands, placing heavy stress on the aquifers.

EPWater’s current aquifer recharge program began 30 years ago at the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation facility to help stabilize declining aquifer levels. Over the last 30 years, the utility has replenished the Hueco Bolson with over 26 billion gallons of wastewater that is transformed into drinking water at the Fred Hervey facility.

“In the coming decades, we will continue to face drought cycles, and some of those years may be severe with little or no river flow,” said El Paso Water President and CEO John Balliew. “The proposed strategy to increase aquifer recharge from 977 million gallons per year to 5.5 billion gallons per year could be a game-changer for the Hueco Bolson aquifer and for El Paso.”

Odor Control Remains an Essential Focus for El Paso Water Crews

Odor control can be challenging for wastewater facilities, especially for those in the heart of metropolitan areas, and some Central El Paso neighbors have complained about the smell.

To that end, El Paso Water (EPW) has prioritized infrastructure rehabilitation, allocating nearly half of the construction funds in this year’s budget to modernization and upgrades, including ongoing projects at the Haskell Street plant.

The Haskell R. Street Plant, located on Delta Drive south of the County Coliseum, began treating wastewater in 1923. Since it opened, EPW has expanded the plant to serve the area’s growing population and upgraded the equipment to keep pace with regulations.

And while passers-by won’t notice much activity from the outside, inside crews are replacing older equipment, upgrading facilities and accelerating maintenance to increase odor control.

EPW crews noticed significant improvements in air quality after replacing one of the clarifiers – the equipment that removes solids during the wastewater treatment process. The new clarifier removes odors with bacteria rather than chemicals, so the switch also increases worker safety and reduces chemical and operating costs.

Construction will continue for several years as we continue with upgrades that modernize the Haskell Street plant.

John Balliew, P.E., President/CEO of El Paso Water says, “We thank the public for their patience during these upgrades; customer service remains at the forefront of our mission to provide vital water, wastewater and stormwater services. In this spirit, we work hard to build relationships in our community and to be a good neighbor.”

“If you detect an odor, please be assured we are working as efficiently as possible on system repairs and upgrades to minimize impacts to nearby neighborhoods,” Balliew added.

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