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El Paso Water will give update on sewage breaks at IBWC meeting

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El Paso Water will provide an update on the months-long effort to stop wastewater from flowing into the Rio Grande at the Rio Grande Citizens Forum Thursday evening during a meeting hosted by the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The Rio Grande Citizens Forum is a quarterly public meeting the federal agency hosts to discuss the Rio Grande between Percha Dam in New Mexico and Fort Quitman, Texas. The IBWC is a binational agency that oversees water treaties, flood control and water quality between the United States and Mexico.

IBWC Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner, who President Joe Biden appointed to head the U.S. portion of the binational agency in September, will give the opening remarks.

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Since August, El Paso Water has diverted more than 600 million gallons from the West Side’s toilets, showers and sinks into the Rio Grande riverbed because of breaks in two mains, including the Frontera Force mains. Recently, the utility unveiled efforts to treat portions of the wastewater, as plans fell through to dam up the flows of raw sewage.

Gilbert Trejo, the chief technical officer at El Paso Water, will discuss the utility’s response, timelines and inter-agency efforts on the spill.

El Paso Water said previously the IBWC has coordinated all communications with Mexico. The agency also nixed the idea to dam the river because of flood control concerns on both sides of the Rio Grande.

Also on the agenda are updates on levee construction projects, which are important for flood control along the Rio Grande. Ramon Macias III, a top engineer at IBWC, will present the status of planned or ongoing projects in El Paso County.

Members of the public will be allowed to offer comments after the presentations, according to a meeting agenda.

The meeting will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams, which can be joined from the IBWC’s website by clicking here and hitting the “Join” button. An audio-only option is available by calling (915) 320-4718 and entering the conference ID: 860 273 728#. The webinar meeting is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Cover photo: The Rio Grande carries West El Paso’s untreated sewage downriver on Oct. 13. El Paso Water has redirected approximately 10 million gallons of wastewater into the river per day since its Frontera Force pipelines suffered breaks in August. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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Danielle Prokop

Danielle Prokop is a climate change and environment reporter with El Paso Matters. She’s covered climate, local government and community at the Scottsbluff Star-Herald in Nebraska and the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached at dprokop@elpasomatters.org.

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