Old farm roads had long ago given way to interstate highways and the nearby historic missions would soon capture international acclaim.
Yet the residents of this urban South Side neighborhood remained dependent on plumbing systems no household in one of the nation’s largest cities had seen for years — outhouses, leaking septic tanks and cesspools.
It was a modern-day health hazard laced with indignity for citizens who, though they paid city taxes, received no city sewer service.
In 2001, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department declared the Mission Espada area a public health risk. The potential for an outbreak of dengue fever or hantavirus threatened both the immediate community and the larger San Antonio area.
That’s when the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Water System and Los Vecinos de las Misiones began working with Merced Housing Texas on what came to be known as the Espada Sewer Connect Project.
Committing more than $3.3 million for this program, Merced rehabilitated 21 homes in the neighborhood connecting them with lateral sewer lines for the very first time. The four-phase project was completed in 2008.
Six years later, while still dominating the skyline of this now-improved neighborhood, the 18th century Mission San Francisco de la Espada site was named — along with the other three missions south of downtown San Antonio — a World Heritage Site.
Espada residents can call it home for years to come.
–By Cary Clack