City of Kyle warns those downstream of Plum Creek after wastewater plant failure

City of Kyle Wastewater Treatment Plant (City of Kyle Photo)
City of Kyle Wastewater Treatment Plant (City of Kyle Photo)

KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — Partially treated wastewater could make its way into Plum Creek if a component failure at the Kyle Wastewater Treatment Plant is not fixed in time.

The city of Kyle is asking people who live downstream of the plant stay out of the water and keep animals away from the water until the “significant” failure is resolved. If it’s not fixed, there is the possibility more than a million gallons of partially treated effluent could be released into the creek every day.

Problems began at the plant on Sunday, when the center well bearing system — the main part of the process of removing solids from incoming wastewater using motorized rakes — suffered a failure.

The rakes help move wastewater to the next phase of the wastewater treatment system. “Treatment and disinfection of wastewater is still occurring, meaning the outflow of effluent is still treated as it enters Plum Creek,” Division Manager Jason Biemer said.

But he warned, “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. The effect would be a release of partially treated effluent.”

The city says the window for repairing Kyle’s 17-year-old Wastewater Plant 1, located next to Waterleaf Park — about two miles east of Interstate 35 — is closing quickly, with several days at most to repair the issue.

Plan A is to install temporary pumps to mimic the circulation process to keep solids moving through the wastewater process. Plan B, Biemer says, would be to bring in a mobile, temporary treatment system.

Public Works Director Harper Wilder said city staff is working 24 hours a day to fix the plant and have notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) about the potential for a release of partially treated effluent above the permitted limit.

The city says it has notified neighbors downstream about the potential effects of a release. As to the question if the effluent currently coming out of the plant into Plum Creek is safe, the city said they are permitted by TCEQ to have up to 15 parts per million of solids, but it takes several days to get laboratory results.

Partially treated wastewater in Plum Creek could lead to a reduction in water quality and a potential “fish kill” situation downstream, as well as fines from TCEQ.

A plant expansion has been on the books for around two years, the city says, with construction expected to begin in spring 2018.

In August, hundreds of dead fish were found in Plum Creek near Uhland, several miles downstream from the plant. The man who found the fish said he suspected untreated wastewater was the cause, but acknowledged he couldn’t prove it.

In 2010, 100,000 gallons of sewage was spilled at the plant, and another 117,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the creek just last year.

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