SANTA FE – The New Mexico Environment Department announced Thursday that it has fined El Paso Water $1.2 million for allegedly discharging more than 1 billion gallons of raw sewage into the Rio Grande in Sunland Park.
The state compliance orders also require El Paso Water to fix the problems that caused the illegal diversion and clean up the impacted areas.
“El Paso Water’s flagrant disregard for the health and welfare of New Mexicans in Sunland is astonishing,” state Environment Secretary James Kenney said in announcing the action.
According to the Environment Department, El Paso Water diverted the untreated sewage in a dry reach of the Rio Grande starting Aug. 27, 2021.
“El Paso Water illegally discharged 6 to 10 million gallons of raw wastewater per day into the river just upstream of Corchesne Bridge at the Doniphan Outfall,” the agency said in its news release. “The raw wastewater travelled downstream along the New Mexico-Texas border for approximately 1.9 miles.”
The department said the illegal discharge did not stop until Jan. 10, or a total of 136 days.
El Paso Water is accused of not reporting the unauthorized discharge to state environmental officials in violation of the Water Quality Act and Water Quality Control Commission regulations.
Discharges of untreated sewage typically contain bacteria and viruses known as pathogens, which can cause such diseases as cholera, giardia and hepatitis A, according to health officials.
A call to El Paso Water seeking comment on the fine was not immediately returned Thursday.
Journal staff contributed to this report.