Hickerson treatment facility fully operational

Cleaned wastewater now being released to the Rio Grande

EL PASO – The John T. Hickerson Water Reclamation Facility has ramped up operations to take the full inflow of wastewater from El Paso’s westside.  This allows El Paso Water to halt the discharge of raw wastewater into the river, paving the way for environmental remediation efforts.

“We remain in a testing and commissioning phase to ensure the new replacement pipeline and the facility are operating as they should,” said Gilbert Trejo, Interim Chief Operations Officer.

The utility began discharging raw wastewater into the Rio Grande in August when the two Frontera Force Mains failed.

The Frontera Lift Station, the largest of its kind in west El Paso, became operational Monday afternoon and is conveying wastewater flows through the new Frontera Force Main, a 36-inch wide pipeline made of non-corrosive material. The Frontera Lift Station is the second of two lift stations to start up in the last week to convey wastewater to the Hickerson facility for treatment.

The Hickerson facility treats an average of 10 million gallons per day of wastewater, collected from more than 110,000 Westside residents. Neighboring homes and businesses should experience a reduction in odors.

The first phase of clean-up efforts will begin soon. A local contractor will begin cleaning channels and ponding areas that temporarily contained wastewater during the emergency.

“This was an unprecedented emergency that required many partners to collaborate and find a solution and then to expedite it,” Trejo said. “Today, clean treated water is flowing from Hickerson into the Rio Grande.”

EPWater has engaged outside experts to conduct a forensic analysis of the old wastewater line to determine the cause of the breaks. An environmental consulting firm is continuously assessing impacts to the Rio Grande and advising on environmental mitigation strategies.

The utility will continue to cooperate with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on information requests.

Background: EPWater proactively started remediation work at the Frontera Force Mains in 2020.  Beginning on August 13, 2021, when the remediation work that began in 2020 was 60% complete, the utility experienced multiple breaks to the Frontera Force Mains. On average, the lines carry about 10 million gallons of wastewater from West El Paso every day. Additional breaks forced EPWater to make the difficult decision to divert wastewater to the Rio Grande. The utility reported the initial wastewater emergency to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and has maintained regular contact with the agency throughout the process.

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