Solutions to Killeen’s water and wastewater treatment problems are going to be costly, city officials determined Thursday, at a joint meeting of the Killeen City Council and Bell County Water Control Improvement District No. 1 board.
After a tour of the WCID-1 38th Street wastewater treatment plant, the council and district board began discussions about a new water treatment plant and launched an effort to solve the ongoing problem of grease clogging the city’s sewers.
Killeen is approaching a water usage threshold, set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, that will soon require a new water treatment plant to be built.
The cost of the project will be transferred to residents through higher water rates.
At Thursday’s meeting, officials agreed that building the new plant on Stillhouse Hollow Lake is the most logical site because it mirrors the growth of the city, which can only grow south from Fort Hood.
The city currently receives all of its water from the WCID-1 treatment plant on Belton Lake.
“We’ve got to get a south take point,” Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said. “We’re pushing all the water from north to south, and it is not efficient.”
District board president John Blankenship said building a new plant would take four to five years.
“Now that the timeline has gone away, we need to move forward,” Blankenship said.
During the meeting, a special treatment plant research committee was formed consisting of Corbin, Blankenship, Councilman Wayne Gilmore, Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison, district board member Allen Cloud and WCID-1 General Manager Jerry Atkinson.
Corbin set a deadline for the committee of two months to finalize a decision.
One site suggested for the new plant was a plot of land on Stillhouse Hollow Lake, which the water district purchased in 2008.
“This group ought to look at all of the alternatives — not just the one that you are proposing — pick out the one that is going to be most cost-effective,” Corbin said.
Blankenship said other “regional entities” had shown interest in contributing to the project for a chance at more treated water.
“The right answer to that plan is to have partners in there with you so that the total cost of the project meets the needs of your budget,” Blankenship said. “We believe that we can get there.”
Fats, oils and grease
Although complaints from local restaurant owners provide some proof that the city is enforcing its fats, oils and grease ordinance, WCID-1 — which treats Killeen’s wastewater — still struggles to treat the grease in Killeen’s sewers.
In 2008, the city of Killeen was fined $900,000 for damage to the south sewage treatment plant, which was caused by grease.
Since then the city passed its FOG ordinance, which regulates grease as it leaves food service providers and enters the city sewer system.
“We’re getting a lot of pushback, but we’re doing a lot of enforcement action trying to solve this problem,” Corbin said. “I’m not sure we’re making much headway based on the way the numbers look.”
Blankenship said the problem must be solved soon or more of the district’s equipment will be damaged again.
“(The cost) ultimately goes down to our consumers,” Corbin said. “We are very concerned about getting a handle on it.”
Atkinson said the south plant, which is experiencing the most problems, is designed to treat 10,000 pounds of solids per day, but in the first 27 days of January the plant treated an average of 12,000 pounds per day.
“None of us may like that solution, but it may mean that we have to spend a bunch of money and do a different kind of plant that will handle that grease,” Corbin said.
WCID-1 and Killeen city staff plan to meet today with engineers from San Antonio and Houston to find a solution to the problem.
“What we said as a staff is we’re going to have to live with the grease problem,” Atkinson said, “So now then, we’ve got to be smarter than the grease.”