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Public Meeting for the Brownsville Wastewater Collection System Improvements - FM511-802 Colonias Project

Posted on June 27, 2014

Public Meeting for the Brownsville Wastewater Collection System Improvements - FM511-802 Colonias Project

On May 21st, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board (BPUB) conducted a Public Meeting at the Lucio Middle School Cafeteria, in the border city of Brownsville, TX. The purpose of the Public Meeting was to present the Wastewater Collection System Improvements Project-FM511-802 Colonias Project. The project includes a conventional wastewater collection system as an extension of the existing BPUB infrastructure.

According to Carlos Acevedo, the BECC engineer responsible for this project, residents of the area served by the project "lack wastewater collection services and use latrines and septic tanks for wastewater disposal." The binational official said the proposed project will provide first-time wastewater collection service to residents of FM511-802 colonias, who will be able to connect to the sewer system. These areas are located southeast of the City of Brownsville and are adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. The project, which will benefit 3,600 residents, has been previously funded by the Texas Water Development Board's (TWDB) Economically Distressed Areas Program for the development of the final design and land acquisitions. TWDB will also provide funding for the construction of the main sewer and lift stations. 

The part of the project proposed for BECC certification includes connections to the wastewater collection system and US $4.7 million in grants from the Border Environmental Infrastructure Fund (BEIF) funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and managed by the North American Development Bank (NADB).  The Public Meeting, attended by 120 residents of the benefitted colonias, was used to present the processes and timeline that need to be followed to crystalize this project that has been explored since 1990 under the framework of the water sanitation studies carried out for Cameron County. 

Additionally, the sponsor explained that efforts have been made to obtain the required funding for the aforementioned studies, the project's design engineering and construction, and other relevant environmental impact studies. The application for BECC/NADB certification and financing was submitted in 2012.

BPUB participants included David Abrego, Genoveva Gomez, Jesus Alfaro, Alfredo Resendez, Aurelio Hernandez, Javier Galvan, and Gloria Garcia. The meeting was also attended by County Commissioner Sofia Benavides, her assistant, Patti Matamoros, Lupita Ortega from the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, and Vicente Méndez on behalf of AMBIOTEC, the consulting company.

Maria Cantu, a resident of one of the benefitted colonias, said that she is aware of the great benefits that the change from septic tanks to wastewater collection and disposal will bring, not only for her household, but for the entire city. She said that, although she has had no problems with her septic tank "there are many people who, because of ignorance, carelessness, or lack of funds, don't maintain their septic tanks properly and don’t understand that, regardless of proper maintenance, there is always some seepage that causes impacts in case of heavy rains or flooding, which are common to his region." 

Irma Aramburo and Maria Cantu are two housewives who have lived in their colonia for more than 30 years using septic tanks and, like most of the attendees, they feel the meeting was well conducted. They recognized that the introduction of sewer lines will increase the property value of their land and houses and will help to clean up the environment. They hoped that in future meetings, more assistance is announced for more projects that help to make the City of Brownsville a cleaner city with more value added. 




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