El Paso Water completes sewage clean-up at Rio Grande riverbend

(UC) — El Paso Water and its partners have completed 100% of the riverbed clean-up effort following the Frontera Wastewater Emergency. Work remains to continue the characterization and removal of soils from the banks of the river.

“As agreed upon with our partners, when the water is released from Elephant Butte, the river will be ready,” said Gilbert Trejo, Interim Chief Operations Officer for Production and Treatment.

Approximately six to twelve inches of impacted soil has been removed from portions of the riverbed. The piles are stockpiled on the riverbank to dry out so they can be tested and transported for proper disposal. This work will continue for weeks as thousands of truck loads remove the piles.

Water quality sampling shows that river flows have returned to pre-discharge conditions. The clean-up efforts have required a large collaboration with many partners.

“We want to extend a special thanks to the El Paso County Improvement District #1 and Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas (CILA) in Juarez along with our own EPWater crews and our contractor Arcadis for helping with the cleanup,” said Trejo.  “We also owe a special thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, the International Boundary and Water Commission and Border Patrol for expediting approvals needed so we could move quickly on the cleanup.”

EPWater proactively started remediation work at the Frontera Force Mains in 2020.  Beginning on August 13, 2021, when the remediation work that began in 2020 was 60% complete, the utility experienced multiple breaks to the Frontera Force Mains. Additional breaks 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.


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