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Failing septic tanks reportedly lead to a dangerous water situation in Vinton

By: Genevieve Curtis

EL PASO, Texas-- Failing septic tanks reportedly have led to a dangerous water situation in Vinton.

KFOX14 was the only station to report the village's water testing results, which show high levels of arsenic and E. coli in some of the systems.

The mayor of Vinton, Madeleine Praino, said part of the problem is a lack of information and education. It's created issues like people never cleaning out their septic tanks or exposing themselves to toxic water.

The study conducted by the University of Texas at El Paso found around 30 percent of the homes surveyed had never cleaned out their tanks, some in 20 years.

That didn't surprise licensed plumber Jesus Machado. "I go to a lot of them, and half of the time we spend more time trying to pinpoint exactly where exactly they are," said Machado.

While it varies tank to tank, most septics need to be cleaned once or twice a year.

If not, it can cause septic tank failures, which can result in replacing the entire tank. It also means the waste can seep into the water table, ending up in private wells.

"A lot of the people that are on septics, they don't know they're on septics. They flush things out they shouldn't on a septic," said Machado.

The study also found almost half the homes questioned don't have a certificate of compliance.

The mayor says the overall solution is new infrastructure but that will take time.

Meanwhile, officials need to help promote education and information for the community.

The mayor said they're considering sending out information in a newsletter or including information in bills.

"We have to start by educating, letting them know this is what you need to do, this is what you need to have handy, you need to maintain, you need to get a certificate of compliance. I'm surprised a lot of people don't have it," said Praino.

KFOX14 has followed this story for the last two years. The village is in the process of applying for grants to build a sewer system, which could eliminate the need for septic tanks.



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