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Wastewater plant issue could lead to partially treated effluent in Plum Creek

Kyle city officials are scrambling to rectify an issue at the city’s wastewater treatment plant that, if left unfixed, could release up to one million gallons per day of partially treated effluent into Plum Creek.

The issue took place Sunday when the center well bearing system at the Kyle WWTP 1 suffered “significant component failure,” according to a city press release. According to the city, Plant 1 is approximately 20 years old.

The bearing system is the main part of the clarification process at the facility, which houses two circular plants. Clarification is what removes the solids from incoming wastewater using a series of motorized rakes, according to the release. The rakes help move wastewater to the next phase of the system.

According to the release, Plant 2 is online and functioning properly.

Jason Biemer, Kyle Wastewater division manager, said treatment and disinfection of wastewater is still taking place, and any outflow of effluent is still treated as it enters Plum Creek.

Kyle’s wastewater plant has a permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that limits the amount of solids in the discharged effluent to 15 parts per million.

“If the solids are not removed at the same rate as normal, that could lead to treatment issues in Plant 1 and cause a disruption in Plant 2,” Biemer said. “The effect would be a release of partially treated effluent.”

Partially treated effluent can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the creek water, according to city officials. This could lead to a potential fish kill situation downstream and could lead to fines from TCEQ for permit violations.

According to the release, the window for repairing Plant 1 is several days “at most” to prevent overtaxing Plant 2.

Biemer said the first step in repairing the problem is installing temporary pumps to mimic the circulation process to keep solids moving during the clarification process. He said the option is the city’s most viable and cost-effective solution at this point, according to the release.

A second and more expensive option would call for bringing in a temporary mobile wastewater treatment system.

“Our staff are working 24 hours a day to resolve the issue and get the plant back on track,” Harper Wilder, Kyle Public Works director said. “They are doing continuous real-time monitoring including Dissolved Oxygen checks twice a day down stream.”

Wilder recommended that people and animals downstream of the plant stay out of the water until the issue is resolved, according to the release.

City Manager Scott Sellers reached out to Uhland City Manager Karen Gallagher Monday to apprise her of the issue, according to the release.

“We’re working on plant repairs and maximizing our efforts to mitigate any negative impacts to our neighbors and the environment,” Sellers said in a statement.

Kyle is nearing completion of engineering for a WWTP expansion, which is slated to begin construction in Spring 2018.

So what are the steps have already taken and continue to take to prevent untreated wastewater from entering the creek?

  • Locating and installing pumps that would replicate the job of the bearing system
  • Finding a center well to replace the one that failed
  • Exploring the use of a mobile wastewater treatment service
  • Notifying TCEQ about a potential release of partially treated effluent above the permit limit
  • Notifying downstream neighbors about potential effects
  • Continuous monitoring of the plant and effluent leaving the plant

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