The stretch of the Rio Grande that runs through El Paso and Juarez has always LOOKED kind of gross and nasty. Since a wastewater pipe burst back in August the river has SMELLED gross and nasty.

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Here are the two most common statements made by people seeing the Rio Grande in El Paso for the first time:

“Is it always this small?”


“Why does it look like the chocolate river at Willy Wonka’s factory?”

Since the rupture in August, the El Paso Times reports, MILLIONS of gallons of wastewater had been diverted into the Rio every day.  On December 29th, two protestors from Juarez hung a banner off the Bridge of the Americas.

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“El Rio Somos Todos."

Translation: “We are all the river”. Also, “We demand the restoration of the Rio Bravo now!".

The very next day…the El Paso Water company connected the new wastewater pipeline. I guess this could have been coincidental timing but…c’mon, the very NEXT day? The wastewater includes stormwater and irrigation run-off but also sewage of the human poop variety. It’s the sewage part that has had locals holding their nose for over four months.

Here’s the part I found most interesting: do you know WHY the waste pipeline (and its backup) ruptured in the first place? Earthquake? Shifting tectonic plates or some other cataclysmic act of God?

Nope. Try “corrosion”. That’s the official word from El Paso Water.

Am I understanding this correctly? Is it like if you never checked the plumbing at your house eventually the pipes would rust and you’d have a leak? Because, if that’s the case, this sounds like a very avoidable catastrophe. Originally the Water Company said the wastewater (10 million gallons a day!) would be going into the river “through October, possibly into November”.  It’s actually not even over yet. Although the new pipeline was connected on December 30th, the wastewater won’t stop until a “testing period” in January is completed.

But, hey, thanks to the Juarez folks who hung that banner! After four months it only took a day…that’s quicker than you can usually get Roto-Rooter to come out.

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