Your city representatives want to update its citizens on the status of the pending issues the city has with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ. As many of you know, the city’s sewer plant is quite old, over 50 years. Moreover, the plant is taking in much more effluent than it was when it was placed on line. As a result of this and other factors, in response to odor complaints from nearby residents, representatives of the TCEQ in March made a compliance inspection of the plant. On August 29, the TCEQ issued a Notice of Enforcement to the city alleging that the city was not in compliance with the state’s environmental rules in a number of ways, several of which relating to reporting requirements and the handling of sludge were immediately corrected. Three issues raised by TCEQ require the city to undertake action related to--- the status of one of the settling ponds and alleged elevated concentrations of e-coli and ammonia at the plant.
The settling pond or lagoon was immediately addressed. Within the past month the city has retained a contractor to remove sludge from the pond in accordance with the city’s wastewater permit requirements. This will also improve the efficiency of the plant.. As of today that process is mostly complete, so that within the next ten days the city’s engineer should be in a position to re-certify the lagoon in accordance with the city’s wastewater permit requirements.
We believe that the e-coli issues can be addressed by chlorinating the effluent in the ponds. Our director of public works is seeking a grant for chlorinators, one at the front end of the plant and one at the discharge end of the plant. The city will be addressing the actions needed to address e-coli issues as part of the terms of the resolution of TCEQ’s enforcement action. The ammonia issues may be more difficult to correct. Hopefully the ammonia levels will be improved because of the lagoon sludge removal and the changes in wastewater discharges by the Real Ale Brewery, but the city believes that until the Real Ale Brewery waste is pre-treated, the ammonia levels will continue to be difficult to address since the sugar and protein levels of that waste are not being presently removed. The city is partnering with the brewery to work with the TCEQ to reach an amicable solution between the TCEQ, the brewery and the city to resolve this issue. Eventually pre-treatment by the brewery will also moderate the load at the plant (the brewery takes up over one-quarter of the plant’s capacity), and the city and the brewery are seeking solutions to help the brewery finance a pre-treatment facility. Meanwhile, the brewery is transporting some of their effluent off-site, and early next year the city is told that the brewery will have on line a flow equalization facility that will prevent large amounts of the brewery’s discharge from coming into the plant all at once.
The city has now received a lengthy proposed order from the TCEQ, one which proposes substantial fines for the city’s prior alleged non-compliance. Fortunately, the state legislature has provided recently for a “Compliance Supplemental Environmental Project”, or SEP, that, if approved by TCEQ, would allow the city to use monies that would otherwise be payable as fines to pay for necessary corrective measures. The city intends to make an application for the SEP before the month of September ends.
The city also has developed a longer term plan that will allow the city to upgrade the sewer plant with new and improved processing methods in phases over time, sparing the city from