“It’s no secret for the city of Edcouch that, for many years, we’ve had issues with our water plant,” Edcouch City Manager Victor Hugo de la Cruz said this week.

And it’s not just creating clean water that concerns leaders in the Delta city. Cleaning effluent — or sewage — is causing them just as many headaches.

The small town’s 35-year-old wastewater treatment plant is reaching the end of its lifespan right as Edcouch is poised to see a residential development boom.

“Both of them are antiquated, especially our wastewater treatment plant. It’s still an old style lagoon, which really, the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) has been wanting to move away from the lagoon style wastewater treatment plants,” de la Cruz said.

With that in mind, officials from Edcouch traveled to Austin this week — to RGV Days at the capitol — to share one message with state lawmakers: help us with our water.

While droves of Rio Grande Valley leaders flocked to the capitol this week to lobby for lofty goals like economic development, property taxes, annexation legislation and more, for Edcouch, the water and wastewater treatment plants were its top priorities, de la Cruz said.

“These trips to Austin for small cities like ours, it’s a really huge opportunity to allow us to go and lobby ourselves, you know?” de la Cruz said.

Events like RGV Days help to put Edcouch — a town of 2,700 — on the same footing as larger cities like Edinburg and McAllen.

“For us to get out there and spend some time and rub some shoulders with some people that can really make a difference, it gives us that opportunity,” the city manager said.

Built in 1988, Edcouch’s wastewater treatment plant processes some 310,000 gallons per day, according to figures from a master plan the city commissioned last fall in anticipation of upgrading the facility.

It uses an outdated lagoon system equipped with aerators and other natural means to slowly clarify effluent. But TCEQ prefers municipalities use more advanced mechanical treatment systems, de la Cruz said.

Meanwhile, when it comes to producing safe drinking water, the city’s aging systems have been struggling to keep up there, as well.

The raw water pumps Edcouch uses to source water from the Rio Grande are inoperable, forcing the city to use portable pumps, according to the master plan.

So, too, are the clarifiers that are used to separate solids from the river water. As a result, sludge has begun to build up in the system.

Problems also exist in the water treatment plant’s electrical system, its 100,000 gallon standpipe, and at the town’s 250,000 gallon water tower, the report states.

While Edcouch officials want to give the water treatment plant a facelift by updating or upgrading those flagging systems, they want to do a complete overhaul of the wastewater plant.

They hope to build an entirely new 700,000 gallon per day plant that would more than double current capacity.

Part of the reason Edcouch officials were so excited to meet with lawmakers in Austin to discuss the projects is because the city knows it can’t afford to fund them on its own.

Edcouch is currently carrying a $5 million debt service, which is nearly double its annual operating budget of $3 million.

The city is also trying to climb its way out of a hole it created by planning — then never doing — an upgrade at the water treatment plant several years before de la Cruz’s tenure as city manager began.

That project included a $7 million USDA loan that would have had the city shelling out six figures per year in debt payments over the 30-year repayment schedule.

Not completing that project put Edcouch in hot water with the Texas Water Development Board, which many cities rely on to provide grants or low- or zero-interest loans for water infrastructure projects.

Ultimately, those issues have left Edcouch on its back foot when it comes to its capacity to borrow.

“Unfortunately, for me to be able to think about getting a loan with the debt service we have right now, it’d be almost impossible,” de la Cruz said. “If there’s like a match, maybe we could handle something like that. But a loan? It’s not in our budget right now to even think about trying to get a loan.”

But the city manager remains optimistic. He said he is close to resolving the previous loan issue with the water development board.

And the city has spurred interest from a host of residential developers — projects that will surely inject new tax revenue into Edcouch’s coffers.

One project along Mile 4 North will see Edcouch grow by 130 lots. Another along Farm-to-Market Road 1015 south of the city will carve out 42 lots for single-family homes, de la Cruz said.

To find a comprehensive list of bills filed — and the status of those bills — visit MyRGV.com and click the 88th Texas Legislative Session tab, which has an interactive spreadsheet and a comprehensive list of AIM Media Texas’ legislative coverage.