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Nearly 3.5 million gallons of wastewater overflows in Waco, Brazos River following heavy rainfall

Posted: 10:52 AM, May 03, 2024
Updated: 2024-05-03 11:56:19-04
Wastewater overflows at manholes and WMARSS

WACO, Texas (KXXV) — Around 3.5 million gallons of rain and wastewater overflowed in Waco following the severe weather conditions from this week, the city said on Thursday.

Heavy rainfall caused several manholes around the city to overflow with diluted wastewater. The city said they are working on containment efforts and estimate the manhole overflow at around 110,000 gallons.

The city reported the largest overflow amount at the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System (WMARSS) Central Wastewater Treatment Plant—at approximately 3,388,000 gallons.

The water treatment plant is fully operational as of 11:15 a.m., May 2.

The city said staff are using bleach in affected areas and chlorine tablets in the waste stream as part of containment efforts, and they are increasing their monitoring of the water supply as a precaution.

City officials said all appropriate local government officials have been notified as well as the TCEQ regional office.

The City of Waco broke it down below

They said around 9 a.m. Thursday, the treatment plant's main breaker experienced an electrical surge and the power went out.

Two backup generators were not available as one was already down for maintenance and the second one had burned electronics—which the city said is likely due to a power surge or a lightning strike.

Due to the power outage, the city said 163,000 gallons of rainwater and diluted wastewater immediately discharged from the main lift station.

This lasted for about 10 minutes, where in that time operators switched power sources to start bypass pumps powered by rented emergency generators at the lift station.

The rest of the plant was still without power, the city said.

At 10:10 a.m., the city said the power issue was being worked on by Oncor staff arriving on-site, and by 11:15 a.m. they restored full power to the plant.

Throughout the approximate 2-hour power outage, the city said an estimated 3,225,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was discharged from the plant's outfall and into the Brazos River.

The city said the Brazos River was flowing at an approximate rate of 7.8 million gallons per minute at the plant's location at the time of the discharge.

The notice from TCEQ

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are calling this overflow an unauthorized discharge or spill of wastewater.

At the time of the notice, the following manholes were contained and no longer had overflows:

  • 17166 Skeet Eason Road
  • 5201 Flat Rock Road
  • 1720 Maple Avenue
  • 400 N. 24th Street
  • 4900 Erath Street

Also at the time of the notice, ongoing overflows were at these manholes:

  • 401 N. 4th Street
  • 2636 Cedar Ridge Road
  • 5230 Lake Shore Drive
  • 2749 Cedar Ridge Road
  • 5400 Lake Shore Drive
  • 1100 University Parks Road
  • 1924 N. 12th Street
  • 401N. Spring Street
  • 1000 Trice Road
  • 1908 N. 12th Street
  • 1315 N. 34th Street
  • 529 N. 36th Street
  • 916 N. Valley Mills Drive
  • 810 N. 31st Street
  • 900 Richland Drive

The TCEQ's estimated volume of the spill was broken down from 3,498,000 gallons in total:

  • 163,000 gallons at the main life station at WMARSS.
  • 3,225,000 gallons of partially treated effluent.
  • 26,700 gallons of manholes stopped at the time of notice.
  • 81,000 gallons at manholes ongoing at the time of notice.

The city's precautionary statement

The City of Waco has issued a precautionary statement for anyone downstream of the discharge and said they should monitor their systems.

They city said that Waco's water supply and quality have not been affected by the discharge.

Precautionary measures from the TCEQ and recommended by the city are as follows:

  1. Persons using private drinking water supply wells located within ½ mile of the spill site or within the potentially affected area should use only water that has been distilled or boiled at a rolling boil for at least one minute for all personal uses including drinking cooking, bathing, and tooth brushing. Individuals with private water wells should have their well water tested and disinfected, if necessary, prior to discontinuing distillation or boiling.
  2. Persons who purchase water from a public water supply may contact their water supply distributor to determine if the water is safe for personal use.
  3. The public should avoid contact with waste material, soil, or water in the area potentially affected by the spill.
  4. If the public comes into contact with waste material, soil, or water potentially affected by the spill, they should bathe and wash clothes thoroughly as soon as possible.