HARKER HEIGHTS — Bacteria in Trimmier Creek water is retreating to safe levels, but public works officials still caution residents against coming into contact with the water, until the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality completes its own investigation.
“We still have pressure tests to do on the two adjacent pipelines next to the (Tuscany Meadows) subdivision,” said Harker Heights Public Works Director Mark Hyde on Wednesday. “As of the 12th (of February), our tests showed that the bacteria levels in the water were safe for people to come in contact with recreationally, but we still want to caution people against that until TCEQ releases their report.”
A TCEQ official said Tuesday the agency is still investigating and would provide the Daily Herald with a report when the investigation is complete.
Hyde said the city performed a pressure test on the pipeline with the initial raw sewage leak and found the line to have no problems.
“The pipeline is fine. It’s not leaking at all,” he said. “The sewer overflow was just caused by some kind of debris that caused a blockage in the line.”
The problems at Trimmier Creek first began in late December, when raw sewage began leaking out of a wastewater system manhole near the creek. On Feb. 3, the city performed a series of tests upstream and downstream from the leak to check bacteria levels in the water.
In a statement issued Feb. 3, Hyde said, “Due to elevated e-coli levels in the Trimmier Creek Tributary adjacent to the Tuscany Meadows residential subdivision the City of Harker Heights requests residents to avoid recreational contact with the water in the creek until further notice.”
Also on Feb. 3, the city placed six signs along the creek warning residents to stay away from the water until further notice, Hyde said. City workers also distributed doorknob hangers in the Tuscany Meadows subdivision to inform residents of elevated Escherichia coli levels in the creek.
Why did it take more than a month to put up signs warning the public?
Hyde told the Daily Herald on Feb. 2 the city was following instruction from TCEQ about the case but had received no instruction on notifying the public of a hazard.
“We have been working closely with the TCEQ, and the city has been doing everything the TCEQ has asked for,” Hyde said. “If it’s a public health issue, then definitely we would (notify the public). It’s odd that (the TCEQ) would come out with this a month after everything happened.”
When asked for comment, a TCEQ spokesperson said the investigation into the leak was ongoing and declined to comment on the commission’s findings and notifications to the public.
Trimmier Creek is a tributary of the Stillhouse Hollow Lake reservoir southeast of Harker Heights.
The reservoir is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will provide drinking water to Killeen when a $50 million treatment plant opens in 2019.
The lake is already a drinking water source for thousands of residents, including customers served by the Kempner Water Supply Corp.
The Daily Herald’s Kyle Blankenship contributed to this report.