Operations crews keep stormwater system running smoothly
The work never stops for El Paso Water's stormwater operations crews, whose responsibilities extend far beyond the height of monsoon season.
From October through June, crews continue to clean up and repair the damage caused by storms, prepare for annual inspections by the Corps of Engineers and concentrate on customer service cleanup requests.
"Typical cleanup is just like someone doing yard work, but with a very big yard," explains Martin Noriega, Stormwater Operations Manager. "It involves lots of weed control, erosion control and picking up illegally dumped trash (tires, mattresses, construction debris). Usually a small area can take a day to clean up. The bigger basins and dams can take weeks. Erosion matters, as well as desilting, can take weeks to months to accomplish."
Illegal dumping significantly increases the amount of work involved in a cleanup. It's not uncommon for workers to come across aluminum cans and beer bottles while cleaning basins and channels around town. And stormwater drains and channels cannot work to reduce flooding if they are filled with trash, so it's essential to keep those sites clear.
The stormwater operations staff consists of 52 employees, the majority of whom are general service workers.
Noriega emphasizes that stormwater crews can only maintain assets within the stormwater system – a common misconception.
"Not all basins/ponds or inlets are ours," he says. "It could be private property. For example, the Texas Department of Transportation may have inlets or ponds they are responsible for. As for a commercial property, like Bassett Mall, the owner is responsible for their own maintenance."
Although many people do not give it much thought until an issue arises, year-round preparation is key to an efficient stormwater system.
"The area we live in is very unpredictable," Noriega adds. "Flash floods are more of a concern for us, along with the intensity of storms. I'm very appreciative of Stormwater Engineering for its support and the projects they've completed. The support of management also helps us better maintain the stormwater system and gives us a more positive outlook for the future."