AUSTIN (KXAN)—Austin Water Utility has authorized $488,400 for emergency repairs to a lift station that flooded in August causing roughly 50,000 gallons of sewage to spill into a South Austin tributary, according to a city memo.
It will take roughly seven months to repair the Southland Oaks Lift Station, which was inundated with runoff water during an Aug. 20 flood that resulted in a spill into a Bear Creek tributary, according to media reports and a memo from Austin Water Utility Director, Greg Meszaros. The spill did not affect the city’s water supply, and the city recovered the spilled liquid.
The repairs, which are proceeding on an emergency basis, should prevent a similar mishap, Meszaros said. The city’s wastewater system, including lift stations and treatment facilities, comes under particular stress during floods. Sewage spills that reach local waterways could potentially cause a health hazard.
In this repair, the lift station’s electrical and motor control center “must be replaced and relocated to ensure that it is above the water level from this event,” the memo states. According to the memo, the damage happened when runoff water ran into the lift station’s dry well through some vents, which caused the failure, a sanitary sewer overflow and damage to the station’s electrical and motor controls.
The lift station is located near the 2600 block of Frate Barker Road near the intersection of Brodie Lane. Lift stations typically pump fluids up to a higher elevations, so they can flow down with gravity to a treatment center.
This isn’t the first time the Southland station has experienced an overflow. KXAN reported in 2014 the same station malfunctioned and spilled about 47,000 gallons into the same tributary.
The wastewater treatment plants receive wastewater, such as household sewage, and clean it. The treated water is often released back into rivers and lakes. Austin’s two largest wastewater treatment plants, the Walnut Creek Plant and South Austin Regional Plant, can release up to 150 million gallons of treated wastewater into the Colorado River each day.
Across Travis County there are more than 60 public, private and industrial wastewater treatment plant permits. We have created a map of those permitted treatment plant locations below.
In August, 25,000 gallons of sewage spilled at the Lost Creek wastewater treatment center after the center malfunctioned. A KXAN Investigation of TCEQ records revealed the plant had a similar malfunction Oct. 31, 2013. In that incident, the same type of tank overflowed and 2,500 gallons spilled into the Barton Creek watershed. And again, in October of 2015, the plant spilled 25,000 gallons from the equalization basin. Severe thunderstorms triggered the problem, according to a TCEQ complaint report. Recently, on Aug. 12, TCEQ received a complaint that the Lost Creek plant is not being adequately maintained.