CNN visits EPWater plants, spotlights water reuse

CNN visits El Paso Water plants, spotlights water reuse
Posted on 12/07/2018
After touring the Fred Hervey Reclamation Plant with Gilbert Trejo, Chief Technical Officer, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Trejo sampled the treated water.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited El Paso Water’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant and the Fred Hervey Reclamation Plant in recent weeks and reported on El Paso’s conservation and water reuse efforts.

Those who watched the report or read the story learned about El Paso Water’s innovation and resilience in the face of drought, and they saw the important roles the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant and the Fred Hervey Reclamation Plant perform. But the online story’s headline raised eyebrows: El Paso to drink treated sewage water due to climate change drought.

The utility received questions as to whether El Paso Water was already treating wastewater and sending it directly into the drinking water system, and whether the practice is safe.

As background, EPWater has been treating wastewater to drinking water standards and recharging the aquifer for 30 years at the Fred Hervey Reclamation Plant. EPWater is ready to lead the charge again as an innovator with the future Advanced Water Purification Facility. The new facility will take reuse a step further and route it directly to the tap.

“It’s the logical next step for us to take,” said Gilbert Trejo, Chief Technical Officer. “The next thing for us to do is to take a high-quality water we produce at a state-of-the-art facility and then treat it a little bit more, with multiple treatment processes, so we can drink it.”

The result would be a first for a major U.S. metropolis.

Water quality protections

To ensure the removal of pathogens and viruses, the Advanced Water Purification Facility will send treated wastewater through several additional processes, including microfiltration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light, carbon filtration and disinfection. This multi-stage process transforms the treated wastewater into a safe, reliable drinking water supply.

Gilbert Trejo, Chief Technical Officer, explained the treatment process used at the Fred Hervey Reclamation Plant to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. EPWater pilot-tested the treatment process in 2016 and successfully demonstrated to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that advanced purification delivers quality water. An independent advisory panel of health and water quality experts scrutinized the project and ultimately offered full support.

Dr. Kristina Mena, associate professor of environmental sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center, served on the advisory panel. “There is a lot of thought and scientific input going into the treatment process,” she said. “The Advanced Water Purification Facility will be designed to fully meet or do better than drinking water standards.”

Water experts applaud

After CNN’s story aired, positive comments for EPWater flowed in on social media.

  • “Congratulations to EPWater for developing a resilient water supply in the face of climate change,” WateReuse tweeted.
  • “What El Paso Water has done, with strong leadership is a good role model for other cities and regions,” agreed Twitter user Tim Worley, the California and Nevada executive director for the American Water Works Association.
  • “It’s awesome to see the story about EPWater’s direct potable reuse project on CNN,” the Water Environment Federation tweeted. Not only is it an informative article, but it will raise public awareness about water issues, the need to reuse and incredible abilities of utilities.”

Untapped resource

EPWater Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo said advanced purified water is a global, drought-proof solution for desert cities like El Paso or cities that face similar challenges.

The project is currently in design and several years away from construction.

During the CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Gupta said he feels as if he is witnessing a major event. “Is this the future of water?” Gupta asked Trejo. “I think it is,” Trejo said. “I think the future is here.”

El Paso Water | All Rights Reserved | Powered by CivicLive | © 2018 West Corporation