$8 million grant will build new treatment center, helping border area resolve ongoing wastewater issues
U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich welcomed news that the Camino Real Regional Utility Authority (CRRUA) has received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Border Environmental Infrastructure Fund (BEIF) to construct a new wastewater treatment plant to serve two Doña Ana County communities, Sunland Park and Santa Teresa. The new treatment plant will help the area resolve ongoing wastewater treatment problems, which have caused some sewage to be released into the Rio Grande and threatened residents’ health.
The new plant will have the capacity to treat up to 1 million gallons per day (mgd) of wastewater using extended aeration technology. It will replace the old 0.5-mgd North plant that was built in the 1970s and currently receives average flows of 0.7 mgd, exceeding the plant’s capacity, requiring that all wastewater flows go to the CRRUA’s South wastewater treatment plan, which is operating at its maximum installed capacity of 2.0 mgd.
Udall held a Las Cruces field hearing of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility in April 2012 to discuss environmental concerns on the U.S.-Mexico border, including the aging wastewater treatment plant in Sunland Park and options to improve water infrastructure. Representatives from the EPA, North American Development Bank (NADB), Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC), and CRRUA all testified at the hearing about the need for improved environmental infrastructure along the border in general, and the New Mexico portion of the border specifically.
“Sunland Park has struggled with inadequate wastewater treatment for far too long, polluting our water and threatening the health of the community, especially children and others more vulnerable to disease,” Udall said. “This long-overdue investment in a new wastewater treatment plant will finally help the Sunland Park border region resolve these ongoing sewage issues, strengthening the community and protecting the river for future generations.”
“In this country we are used to opening the tap and having access to clean, inexpensive water,” Heinrich said. “The reality is that generations of investment in clean water infrastructure make this possible. Today’s announcement by the EPA of an $8 million investment in southern Doña Ana County will pay health and economic development dividends for years to come.”
“Replacing this plant will increase local wastewater treatment capacity to 3.3 mgd, enabling the utility to meet future demand,” said NADB Managing Director Gerónimo Gutiérrez. “We are pleased to support the residents of Doña Ana County in meeting their infrastructure needs.”
The BEIF is a federal grant program funded through the EPA’s budget and administered by the NADB. The BECC works with EPA to certify and prioritize projects for funding. Udall and Heinrich have supported congressional appropriations for the BEIF, which is provided by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, where Udall serves as the lead Democrat. The project, which was certified by the BECC on April 23, 2015, also includes rehabilitation of the View Pointe Lift Station, new pumps to discharge effluent to the Rio Grande, and a generator to support plant operations, especially in the event of a power outage, among other components. The estimated total cost of the project is $11.7 million, with state funding making up the balance.