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Central Texans share concerns over Waco's future wastewater facility

Brazos River near Cameron Park
Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 18:45:16-05

WACO, Texas — Jeanna Maughan, Jan Price and Nancy Lacy all live on or near the Brazos River. Naturally, they’d have concerns about Waco’s future wastewater facility being built along the river.

Having a safe and clean Brazos is something they care a lot about and have done their homework on water quality.

When 25 News met with the three women on Monday, Maughan had an inch or two high stack of paperwork, with details about the Brazos River and how the future treatment plant could impact water quality.

"You look in a swimming pool, the stuff in the bottom is gross and yucky and you wouldn’t get in it — the stuff on top is clear doesn’t mean that it’s clean," Maughan said.

"They’re going to tell you they’re dumping clean in here but clear is not clean, you can’t see arsenic, you can’t see the viruses, you can’t see the bacteria, micro-plastics. There’s a lot of things that they’re putting in the water that they don’t even test for.”

One of her main concerns is how a future facility would test and treat for the medicines that we put into our bodies.

25 News took those concerns to the City of Waco. Reporter Bobby Poitevint spoke with Jessica Emmett Sellers who is a Senior Public Communications and Information Specialist with the Water and Utilities Department for the City of Waco.

"Pharmaceuticals is kind of a new thing that people are becoming concerned with and so the regulations for that, I think, are kind of still being worked out as to how that’s going to be, but a lot of things are filtered out," Emmett Sellers said.

She says their regulations are up to code.

“It’s not quite safe enough to drink but it’s definitely safe for the fish — that's something that we really do care a lot about," she said.

"Typically we’d never recommend anybody drinking water straight from the Brazos, but the water that we’re putting back into the Brazos River is actually cleaner than the water that’s existing there now.”

Many Central Texans are wondering how the city will handle sewage overflows in future wastewater treatment plants.

Over half a million gallons of sewage dumped for 16 hours into lake Waco in February due to a power outage and heavy rains, according to city leaders — the city told us the lake water was still safe.

This is a concern for Maughan, Lacy, and Price.

“Well, we don’t need to be dumping in Lake Waco — we don’t need to be dumping in Lake Brazos," Lacy said.

I took this concern to Emmett Sellers who said: “When something like that happens, we know the conditions that would lean that way and we would make sure we’re prepared to handle that as quickly as we can.”

"Are those things being implemented in the design process in this future facility?", reporter Bobby Poitevint asked.

"Yeah, tons of safety — safety is a huge part, public health is one of our highest values in the water department," Emmett Sellers said.

Emmett Sellers wants to emphasize that the design phase of the plant has not even started yet and the plant is ten years or longer from even being in operation.

A public meeting will be held at the Waco Convention Center’s McLennan Meeting Room — that meeting is planned for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Emmett Sellers says representatives from the City of Waco will be in attendance to answer questions.