VINTON, Texas (Border Report) – Fifteen-hundred residents of an overwhelmingly Hispanic community in Far West Texas now have access to clean drinking water thanks to state and federal grants.
Vinton Mayor Rachel Quintana and other dignitaries on Tuesday celebrated the completion of a water distribution system several years in the making. It eliminates exposure to arsenic and bacteria that plagued the system it replaced.
A wastewater collection system is now in the works to connect to underground pipes 506 homes using septic tanks.
“I’ve lived out here 47 years and there’s always been a problem with septic tanks contaminating our ground. We need to move away from that (because) all that goes into the ground, our underground rivers,” Quintana said.
The water and wastewater projects were financed by a $4.9 million grant by the Border Environmental Infrastructure Fund of the North American Development Bank, $16.7 million in grants and loans from the Texas Water Development Board and $7.1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development fund.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, a former El Paso County Judge, said improving basic water infrastructure for small Texas communities is a financial challenge only met through local, state and federal collaboration.
“One of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of the job (as county judge) was that there was incredible need in our community and not nearly enough resources,” Escobar said. “There are pockets all over El Paso, whether it’d be here in the west side or all the way to the far eastern side of the county, colonias that have gone a long time without fundamental services that you and I take for granted.”
Colonias are substandard housing developments often found along the Texas-Mexico border where residents lack basic services like clean drinking water, sewage treatment or paved roads.
Quintana said her community – whose adult population is 85% Spanish-speaking, according to census data – has improved a lot compared to when she was a teenager. She next hopes to turn an abandoned industrial yard into a park with baseball fields with a $2 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant.