El Paso, Texas (KTSM) – A major Westside wastewater line continues to cause El Paso Water to divert wastewater to the Rio Grande.

The point of wastewater release is at the riverbed near Paisano Drive and Racetrack Drive. From that point south, EPWater is cautioning the community to avoid all contact with the river. 

This wastewater is from showers, sinks and toilets, which will be sent to the Hickerson Water Reclamation Facility where it will go through a process before being released into the river.

This week, the wastewater in the Rio Grande was heavily diluted with river flows. However, the releases from Elephant Butte are ending and river water is expected to diminish in the coming days. Stormwater and the high water table will only provide limited dilution.  

“It appears that the recent storms contributed to a major degradation of already corroded wastewater lines in the Doniphan area. The flooding and high-water table destabilized soil conditions and led to water infiltration,” said EP Water Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “This is causing delays because repairs have become more complicated.”

The pipe breaks initially caused a backup of wastewater, which came up from manholes in a low-lying Upper Valley neighborhood and into some homes. Wastewater was diverted to stormwater ponding areas and street drainage nearby, eventually making its way to the Rio Grande. Nearby customers continue to be affected by odors and other disruptions.

“We hoped that the odors and other inconveniences would only last a matter of days, but because of extensive damage to one of the pipes and the continuous wastewater flows, repairs will take longer,” said Trejo.

EPWater has begun disinfecting and deodorizing the ponds to minimize the effects. 

“We have made the difficult decision to continue releasing wastewater to the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, this could result in adverse ecosystem impacts, but we are trying to protect the health and safety of our customers.”

Repairs to the wastewater line and cleanup efforts are expected to take a few more weeks, which means wastewater flows to the Rio Grande will continue. 

“As a matter of public health and safety, we urge people to stay away from the river,” said Trejo. 

In the meantime, a major pipeline replacement has been accelerated. In March 2020, EPWater started a two-year emergency pipeline replacement project of the Frontera Force Main after a condition assessment revealed significant deterioration and corrosion.  That project is more than 60% complete.

EPWater has directed the contractor to add more crews, work more shifts and accelerate the project. What was supposed to be a March 2022 completion is now estimated to be complete in November 2021.

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