The city of Harker Heights has three months to institute a state-mandated environmental project to avoid paying nearly $10,000 in fines linked to a sewage leak into Trimmier Creek in December 2016.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state and city reached an agreement for the city to undergo a Supplemental Environmental Project in lieu of state penalties after a city-owned wastewater manhole backed up an unknown amount of effluent into the creek.
The city was ordered Dec. 13 by the state to replace a waste-activated sludge pump at its wastewater treatment plant at an estimated cost of $12,578.
According to the TCEQ enforcement order, the pump will ensure effluent is transferred to the system’s aerobic digester and prevent an abundance of bacteria in effluent runoff.
If the city does not complete the project within 90 days of the order, or submit a good reason for delay, it will be forced to pay $9,375 in enforcement penalties.
The city is also required to submit reports to the state monthly to ensure the project is being implemented.
Heights Director of Public Works Mark Hyde could not be reached for comment Monday.
In December 2016, residents of the Tuscany Meadows subdivision bordering a section of Trimmier Creek found a manhole cover on the bank of the creek had overflowed, leaving human waste and effluent on the creek’s banks.
An investigation by the TCEQ revealed an obstruction in the city’s wastewater system caused the manhole to overflow.
According to the commission’s investigation report, the city failed “to prevent the unauthorized discharge of wastewater into or adjacent to water in the state.”
Trimmier Creek flows southeast into Stillhouse Hollow Lake, a U.S. Corps of Engineers reservoir that provides drinking water to surrounding municipalities.
The report also found E. coli levels downstream from the leak were 1,000 times higher than levels considered safe for human contact, according to state samples, and the sewage leak directly resulted in a fish kill.
The report said an investigation Dec. 30, 2016, found about 200 dead fish over a range of 900 yards downstream from the discharge site.
The city of Heights was initially informed of a state enforcement measure in February, which the city’s legal department challenged.