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New arsenic treatment facility begins operations in Tornillo, Texas

Posted on May 22, 2017

New arsenic treatment facility begins operations in Tornillo, Texas

The project will also provide first-time access to wastewater treatment services for 19 households Project constructed with a US $3.75 million grant awarded by EPA

On March 23, Alex Hinojosa, Deputy Managing Director of the North American Development Bank (NADB) presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Wastewater Collection and Arsenic Treatment Project that is improving the quality of drinking water distributed to residents of Tornillo, a community located about forty miles east of El Paso, Texas.

The new facility has the capacity to treat 37.9 liters per second (about 600 gallons per minute) to reduce naturally-occurring arsenic concentrations to permitted levels, as well as to remove iron and manganese ions, which give water an unpleasant odor and taste, and increase turbidity. The project was certified in 2014 by the Board of Directors of the NADB and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) and received a US $3.75 million grant provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Border Environment Infrastructure Fund (BEIF) administered by the NADB and BECC.

The layout of the facility's waste line provided an opportunity to incorporate new wastewater connections, providing first-time access to sewer service to 19 households that currently use substandard on-site wastewater disposal systems. The decommissioning of such systems will eliminate approximately 0.26 liters per second (5,600 gallons per day) of untreated or inadequately treated wastewater.

“We congratulate the El Paso County Tornillo Water Improvement District (EPCTWID) for the completion of this vital project to improve water quality and provide much needed wastewater collection services to neighboring households,” said Alex Hinojosa. “The grant funds were instrumental in making this project a reality,” he added. He also said “this plant will benefit approximately 3,500 community residents” and will help meet EPA standards, which allow less than 10 parts per million of arsenic in water.”

El Paso County Tornillo Water Improvement District (EPCTWID) Board president, Jose Luis Soria, along with El Paso County Commissioner Vince Perez, and representatives from the offices of Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Will Hurd, Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez, and State representative Mary Gonzalez, were also present to witness the ceremony.

Will Hurd, U.S. Representative of the 23rd District of Texas sent his congratulations to the community. “I am thrilled to see the Wastewater Collection and Arsenic Treatment project completed, as it will provide clean water for thousands of residents in the Tornillo community. This project is proof that we can accomplish great things when all levels of government work together for the benefit of the community,” stated the Congressman. 

Jose Luis Soria said this project “helps us meet the goal of providing quality service while meeting EPA-mandated standards on arsenic content, which is very harmful to human health.” With this facility, he said, “we see a great future in the years to come for the health of local residents.” He acknowledged the importance grant funds provided by EPA, since Tornillo is a very poor community and this type of projects are very expensive. He expressed his appreciation to various agencies that made this project possible, including NADB and BECC, especially “for their financial support and technical assistance.”

El Paso County Commissioner Vincent Perez acknowledged that this project “is an icon and is very representative of the great things the EPA and all EPA-related agencies do to help improve the conditions of very underdeveloped communities in the country, such as Tornillo.”

Paulina Lopez, on behalf of Senator Rodriguez, said: “This event is very important for the Senator, first of all, because he serves as a member of the BECC-NADB Board of Directors, and because he favors more projects in border communities to bring these services to those who need them most.”

This project also received more than US $100,000 in technical assistance from the EPA-funded Program Development Assistance Program (PDAP) to prepare environmental documents and perform a water audit of EPCTWID. Audit recommendations included the implementation of an automated meter reading system, a reuse program to replace potable water used at the wastewater treatment plant, and improved methods for quantifying the volumes of water used for fire suppression and other unmetered uses.




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