Water Woes

An excellent editorial from November 15 El Paso Times, and an accompanying news story, prompt some thoughts…

Here’s the editorial:

People living in developed areas shouldn’t have to exist without access to an untainted supply of fresh water.Yet we still see that in places such as El Paso County’s colonias. Organizations such as the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization have made heroic strides over the years toward eliminating this problem, but there remains work to do.

Part of that work is in the Schuman Estates, a Canutillo community. In uncertified tests of water in 46 homes, eight tested positive for the presence of coliform bacteria. It’s suspected that wells from which the residents draw water were dug too shallow and that water from cesspools and septic tanks has entered that well water.

This is made all the more puzzling because the homes, although outside city limits and close to the New Mexico border, are close to city water lines, yet haven’t been connected.

Some help is on the way in the form of $50,000 from the Border Environment Cooperation Commission to study the Canutillo water situation.

“In this day and age, every single member of our community should have safe, clean water; the fact that families in Schuman Estates do not is downright unacceptable,” U.S. Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, said in a press release announcing the funding. “My office has been engaged in this process for a long time, working with the main families, organizations and agencies involved. This BECC grant is a good step forward in this critical initiative.”

Residents have joined with Border Interfaith, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Canutillo and Reyes to find a solution to the problem.In a report earlier this year by UTEP student Sharon Eby Cornet, interning with Border Interfaith, she noted that El Paso Public Service Board officials said it would take about $800,000 to connect the homes to PSB water lines in the area.

It would seem that between the feds, the PSB, Canutillo, BECC, the state of Texas and whatever other entities could help, these people could be connected to a safe and reliable source of water.

The editiorial follows by one day a news story which covered much of the same ground:

Commission OKs $50,000 to help Canutillo residents
By Adriana M. Chávez / El Paso Times
November 14, 2007

The office of U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, recently announced that funding has been set aside for a study on contaminated water in a Canutillo subdivision.

According to a news release from Reyes’ office, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission has approved $50,000 in technical assistance to El Paso County for an El Paso Water Utilities study to help provide safe drinking water in the Schuman Estates community of Canutillo.

“In this day and age, every single member of our community should have safe, clean water; the fact that families in Schuman Estates do not is downright unacceptable,” Reyes said in the release. “My office has been engaged in this process for a long time, working with the main families, organizations and agencies involved. This BECC grant is a good step forward in this critical initiative.”

Daniel Chacon, BECC’s general manager, said the commission is looking forward to working with residents of Schuman Estates to find a solution.

Residents have banded together with the help of Border Interfaith, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Canutillo and Reyes, who is originally from Canutillo, to find a solution. Uncertified water tests have been conducted on 46 homes in the Canutillo neighborhood, and eight of those homes tested positive for coliform bacteria.

Residents believe that water wells that supply their homes with running water were initially dug too shallow because of the high water table. Because of the wells’ shallow depths, water from cesspools and septic tanks has made its way into the water wells, a problem that residents believe could have been avoided if the homes in the neighborhoods were hooked up to city water lines that run just a few feet away.

West Side and Northeast/Central reporter Adriana M. Chávez may be reached at achavez@elpasotimes.com or 546-6117.

I wrote about the water situation in El Paso County last month. I’m very happy that Proposition 16 passed, and that Temple Mount Sinai’s relationship with Clinica Guadalupana is continuing. I hope that we’ll be a part of Border Interfaith’s continued growth, from strength to strength, and that BI will be an important voice at the table as decisions are made about how to spend the money. The passage of Proposition 16 and the $50,000 study in Schuman Estates lay the groundwork for a good “win,” but we’re only beginning…

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