• September 21, 2020
 Video+Story: El Paso Water provides update on unique challenges of Sunset Heights project

Photo courtesy EP Water

Video+Story: El Paso Water provides update on unique challenges of Sunset Heights project

What do you do when you’re caught between a rock and a hard place? If you’re El Paso Water, you hire a geologist and use specialized impact and vibration-monitoring equipment.

The Upson Drive Main Improvement Project will remove and replace the existing water and wastewater mains and service lines within the Sunset Heights Historic District. Many of the pipes in this area are more than 50 years old.

Removing and replacing over 4,000 feet of water piping and over 2,000 feet of wastewater piping is quite the undertaking. But the nature of the ground in this area presented engineers with a major obstacle.

“One of the challenges with this project is to maintain service for the residents during the construction,” said Luis Guerrero, project engineer with CEA Group, the firm awarded the contract.

“The other challenge is excavating through solid bedrock material, which we believe to be andesite/igneous rock.”

To reach the required depths to lay down the new piping, the contractor must use special impact equipment that breaks through the rocky ground. In order to monitor and mitigate the impact, vibration monitoring equipment is being utilized within the neighborhood .

According to Utility Engineer Francisco Martinez, the vibration monitoring warns the contractor if they reach a level that may cause damage.

When this happens, the contractor has to stop and use other methods of excavation, which may include using smaller equipment and/or chemicals that expand and break up rock.

“Talking to residents of the community, I get the sense that they are glad the infrastructure improvements are being made,” Martinez said. “They just wanted information about the schedule and timeline and to know when the construction would occur in front of their particular houses.”

As part of its standard construction outreach program, EPWater shared the information ahead of time with the neighborhood. Information was shared via bilingual door hangers at each house within the boundaries of the project, through the Sunset Heights NextDoor neighborhood hub, and with the neighborhood association and City Council Representative who also lives in the area.

Utility officials say that the construction, which started in mid-June, is anticipated to be completed in 10 months.  They add that the completed project will improve the reliability of the system in the neighborhood.

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