MILA DOCE — Local and state leaders gathered here Thursday morning to celebrate the opening of a $13 million wastewater and sewage treatment plant that will service eight colonias in the Mid-Valley.
The new plant will expand the reach of the North Alamo Water Supply Corporation, which provides water and wastewater services to a quarter of a million people across rural Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, according to the utility’s general manager, Steven Sanchez.
“That is now who North Alamo is — 52,000 connections (that) provide service to about 250,000 population,” Sanchez said during a ribbon cutting ceremony held in the shadow of the plant’s treatment tanks.
“Water is very important. We’ve gotten it taken care of. Pretty much everybody out in the rural areas has got good, safe drinking water, but now the important thing now is the wastewater,” Sanchez added a moment later.
Alluding to the floods which have stricken the Mid-Valley in recent years, the general manager stressed the importance of investing in wastewater and sewage infrastructure — in moving residents away from septic systems — and thereby reducing the public health risks that occur when storms cause those septic tanks to overflow.
Already, North Alamo Water has wastewater plants in Hargill, Monte Alto and San Carlos.
The plant unveiled at the end of Mile 12 1/2 North Road in Mila Doce on Thursday can now be added to that list. And as local dignitaries took tours of the plant after the ribbon cutting, its systems could be seen processing wastewater.
Once fully online, the plant will be able to process some 700,000 gallons daily, according to engineers from Melden and Hunt.
“We’re living in a safer, cleaner environment,” said Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes.
“Your science and your plant are wonderful, and I congratulate you on that, but you guys are making a difference in people’s lives. You’re relieving their families of living in a situation that is unsafe,” he said.
Fuentes went on to thank the multi-agency partnerships which made the $13 million project possible — particularly the Texas Water Development Board, which provided a $10 million grant via its Economically Depressed Areas Program (EDAP).
The remainder of the project was financed via a loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, according to TWDB board member Kathleen Jackson.
“We are just a resource,” Jackson said.
“It takes the leadership that we talked about here today. It takes an engaged and caring community coming together to move these projects forward,” she said.
Jackson beamed as she lauded the water utility, noting the awards it has received in recent years, and how she considers the rural water supplier as a model to be followed by other utilities throughout the state.
“I also remember what my mother told me. And she said, ‘Kathleen, people make the most important decisions of their life not with their brain, but with their heart.’ And so, I think that really is what gives y’all the edge. I mean, you work together as a family,” Jackson said, adding that though such synergy cannot be factored into engineering documents, it remains vital to a project’s success.
Jackson added that state leaders have noticed a trend in communities that have received EDAP funding — that they are “using this framework to kind of branch out and become better and better.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez, who spoke of how Hidalgo County — the seventh most populous of Texas’ 254 counties — continues to grow at a staggering rate, adding some 500 lots per month.
As that residential and commercial development continues, it will spread into territories like those serviced by North Alamo Water — areas once considered rural, but that are quickly becoming as urbanized as the cities surrounding them.
“I ask you, as we move forward, let us continue to work together as North Alamo has in trying to improve the quality of life of the people that live in this area,” Cortez said.
Speaking of how people throughout the county came together to help accomplish one of the most successful COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the state, Cortez added that that kind of teamwork could see the Rio Grande Valley accomplish so much more.
“If we apply that same spirit of unity to the other problems we have, I like our chances of making Hidalgo County the gold standard. And what you all have done today is gonna help us get there,” he said.