River water season has officially dried up for the year, kicking off the beginning of maintenance at El Paso Water’s two river water treatment plants.
The to-do list is a long one for employees at the Robertson/Umbenhauer – aka the Canal Plant – and the Jonathan Rogers water treatment plants. Draining and cleaning sand-choked basins, desilting, along with equipment inspections is the order of the season that begins once flows from the Elephant Butte Reservoir end.
“Maintenance is a vital part of the operation,” said Mike Parker, superintendent at the Rogers Plant. “This transition period keeps the employee engaged, and I truly believe that if employees know the reasons why we do maintenance, it makes them eager to do their best.”
According to Angel Bustamante, Water Systems Division Manager, EP Water crews take a proactive approach to the upkeep of plant.
“The utility really strives to make sure that we don’t just react to maintenance, we plan for it,” Bustamante said. “We don’t want to be caught in a bind when something goes wrong. We like redundancy.”
The season also signals the beginning of Capital Improvement Program projects, which have been carefully planned over the summer.
“These projects typically occur in the maintenance season because we can’t shut off the plant once we receive river water,” Bustamante said. “We schedule the work so contractors can do it during the non-irrigation season.”
Current projects include an update of ozone generators at the Rogers Plant, as well as a replacement of climber screens, structural improvements and an update of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system at the Canal Plant, Bustamante said.
The plants still field plenty of tour requests from area engineering students, even during maintenance season.
“When basins are drained, you get a better idea of what mechanics are involved,” Bustamante said. “We welcome the public to tour our plants. I recommend they come when there is river water and when there isn’t, so they can get a perspective from both sides.”
For communities where rivers flow all year, plants don’t have the opportunity to shut down for maintenance.
“It’s fascinating that no other system actually shuts down,” Parker said. “At El Paso Water, we suspend our river water plants and start them back up like it’s a walk in the park. But that’s a big, complex thing to do, and we do it every year.”