EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A manhole leaking wastewater near the U.S.-Mexico border south of the Spur 1966 interchange near UTEP reached the riverbed, according to El Paso Water officials.
The leaking manhole, on a Texas Department of Transportation right of way, was discovered Monday, Nov. 21, and the overflow was stopped at about 3:30 p.m. that day, officials said.
Nearby streets, homes and businesses were not impacted.
“While this event had a limited impact on the riverbed, we are extremely sensitive to any wastewater in the riverbed, given the Frontera emergency last year,” said Gilbert Trejo, interim chief operations officer. “However, this event was a stark contrast to Frontera because it was identified and resolved within hours.”
Water officials said the blockage was caused by wipes, concrete and rags that caused the manhole to overflow, officials said.
El Paso Water officials want to remind the public to be aware of what they are putting down the drain and the potential damage it can cause.
No water or wastewater services were affected in the area, water utility officials said. The public drinking water supply is not at risk since the Rio Grande is not currently in operation, they added. El Paso’s river treatment plants stopped treating river water in September.
El Paso Water said it began disinfecting the area immediately after the discharge was stopped. The water utility notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Office of Emergency Management, TxDOT, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, International Water and Boundary Commission and El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 about the leak.
Preliminary estimates are that about 250,000 gallons were discharged onto the floodplain with a smaller amount making its way to the riverbed.
The following is required language from TCEQ for a wastewater discharge event of this size:
“Although it was determined that the public water supply was not affected, EPWater customers or persons who purchase water from another public water supply may contact their water supply distributor to determine if the water is safe for personal use.
“Persons using private drinking water supply wells located within a half-mile of the spill site or within the potentially affected area should use only water that has been distilled or boiled at a rolling boil for at least 1 minute for all personal uses including drinking, cooking, bathing, and tooth brushing. Individuals with private water wells should have their well water tested and disinfected, if necessary, prior to discontinuing distillation or boiling.
“The public should avoid contact with wastewater or soil in the area affected by the discharge. If contact is made, it is advised to bathe and wash clothes thoroughly as soon as possible.”