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EP Water still pumping wastewater into Rio Grande, expects to face possible state fines

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Water was faced with an environmental nightmare when two of its wastewater pipelines ruptured sending millions of gallons of wastewater into west side communities.

That nightmare started in mid-August when EP Water was forced to divert wastewater into the Rio Grande, and continues to do so until repairs can be completed.

ABC-7 sat down with Gilbert Trejo, EP Water's chief technical officer, to talk about what's happened since and how they plan to fix the problem.

The conversation started with just how much wastewater was being pumped into the Rio Grande so far.

"We're around 600 million gallons that have been discharged into the river since last week," said Trejo.

When wastewater flowed into the streets near Doniphan in August, homeowners said the stench was unbearable.

Although one of those pipelines has not been completely repaired, wastewater is no longer flowing into streets, but is still being pumped into the Frontera lift station.

From there, that wastewater is pumped into the Rio Grande. However, now, EP Water is treating this wastewater.

"This is the canal where water is being diverted from the Rio Grande, containing that wastewater. It reaches these pumps where it's pumped to the Bustamante water treatment facility. And once its treated, it then is pumped back into the canal where its being used for irrigation," said Trejo, who indicated it can now be used by farmers.

Trejo admits the thought of pumping wastewater into the Rio Grande was a tough decision because of the potential ecological harm it may cause.

EP Water has already commissioned a study to look at the effects this is having on the ecosystem.

"The sooner we can learn what impact, whether its short term or long term, anything we can do to help mitigate the impacts, we're doing those now, we're definantly concerned what its gonna do for the environment. Vegetation, aquatic life, any wildlife that uses the river as its home," said Trejo.

Trejo added that EP Water is sharing its findings with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The state agency says it's waiting for the repairs to be finished and the water company to cease pumping wastewater into the river before they determine if it should face any fines.

Trejo is already expecting some sort of admonishment from TCEQ.

"I think there will be enforcement action. I think there should be. I tell people this all the time. A wastewater spill into a river its certainly something that, it's one of the main things that we're in charge of - not to happen," he said.

EP Water expects repairs on the pipeline to be completed by December.

Until that happens, EP Water will continue pumping 6.5 million gallons of wastewater in the river daily.

Saul Saenz

El Paso native Saul Saenz is a veteran reporter who also hosts ABC-7 Extra.



  1. I don’t understand why tax payers and El Paso water customers have to pay for unsound decisions by upper management.

    Maybe the waste water in the Rio will keep the illegals from swimming over to the US.

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