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ALAMO, RGV – A wastewater treatment plant on South Tower Road, just outside of the Alamo city limits, has been causing a lot of attention and controversy over the past year.

Local colonia residents say the plant gives off a foul odor on cloudy days. Ironically, the wastewater plant only benefits those living in the city of Alamo, not those in Little Mexico. Colonia residents say they have been told this an act of environmental racism.

“Even though we as a community are not part of the city of Alamo, we are a part of a low-income community. So, the city thought we wouldn’t do anything about it when they placed the plant here. But they were wrong,” Ariss Cosino, youth member of Jóvenes del Valle en Acción said.

Jóvenes del Valle en Acción is a youth group dedicated to bringing awareness to colonia residents in the Rio Grande Valley about different local issues.

“When we presented the project to city officials, they were shocked that we were teenagers. We wanted to change our community in an impactful way. We went to the city commission with the mindset that they weren’t going to take us into consideration because we are teenagers, but, in fact, the impact has been greater due to our age,” Abril Cosino, youth member of Jóvenes del Valle en Acción said.

Jóvenes del Valle en Acción was formed a year ago when a workshop conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality made them aware of what has been causing the bad odor for years in 14 local colonias. The youth group went door to door in the colonias to inform residents about the issue. The group, as a result, gathered more supporters along the way, and subsequently went to the offices of the City of Alamo twice to find a solution. In fact, the group has now met with city commissioners on three different occasions. City officials acknowledged that there was a problem, but said they need more resources to fix it, such as money.

“They wanted the community to take care of the resources for the treatment plant, but in reality, this is the city’s problem to fix, not the community’s,” Abril Cosino said.

A solution presented to the community was the use of aerators, which are a type of fan that circulates the air, and are used to prevent the air from becoming stagnant. Three aerators were set up months ago and have since made life in the community more bearable. Despite the progress, there is still concern for community members about this odor due to the plant being powered by solar light. On a cloudy or rainy day, the odor is said to get worse.
“The aerators have helped a little considering that you can now go outside and have a better life. But even if it was sunny you weren’t capable of going outside at all before there were aerators, so either way was affected as a community,” Abril Cosino said.

Because of their actions the community has been more involved with this issue. Although the problem is likely to take years to fix, Jóvenes del Valle en Acción members say they will not stop until it gets resolved.

“We are not going to stop until we get that odor away from our community, and until we establish a safe environment for our kids,” Abril Cosino said.

A call to Diana Martinez, the mayor of Alamo, was not returned at press time.