Public Works Director Jeff Reynolds spoke during the city council's Tuesday meeting regarding the state of the boil water notice.

Public Works Director Jeff Reynolds spoke during the city council's Tuesday meeting regarding the state of the boil water notice.

Killeen’s citywide boil-water notice could be lifted as early as Wednesday night, officials said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting as they heard from residents affected by the notice.

Heather McNeely, who said she is a small farmer within the city’s limits, said “this is the second time this has happened in a year,” adding it is impractical for her to provide enough treated water for her animals without city support.

Resident Michael Svitack asked why Killeen was the only city to be hit with a boil-water notice.

“We’re too busy trying to grow and expand than to see what we’ve got and to fix it,” he said during citizens comments.

The citywide boil-water notice was issued just over a week ago after quarterly testing of the city’s nine testing sites found six of them to be well under state-accepted chlorine residual levels.

The city has completed its preliminary flushing of the parts of the city-wide distribution system and has sent out its first samples to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Due to the 24-hour nature of the testing process, the city won’t be able to lift the boil-water notice until at least later tonight.

Reynolds explained that the water system’s low chlorine levels are the result of nitration, caused by a film of bacteria that coats the inside of pipes.

“Bacteria builds up and eats ammonia, so during nitrification, bacteria creates a biofilm throughout a system that eats ammonia and makes chlorine less effective,” he said.

Chlorine is necessary to combat microbes and harmful bacteria that may be present in water received from the Water Control and Improvement District.

Typically, the city combats nitrification by “deep cycling” tanks, increasing monitoring of their system and working with a water supplier, such as the WCID.

“When we realized we couldn’t combat that, we sought guidance from the TCEQ,” Reynolds said. “We’ve successfully operated a very safe system.”

According to Reynolds, the TCEQ was contacted early on and provided guidance as to how the city could best combat the nitrification process. So far, the TCEQ has suggested a preliminary flushing of all water in the system and to conduct a “deep cleaning” of the system using a method called “chlorine conversion,” which is a process in which free chlorine is utilized to kill bacteria and increase levels of chlorine to flush the system.

Surrounding cities will also undergo chlorine conversion; however, Killeen’s “deep-cycling” process will take a staggering 30 days. This is apparently due to the fact that the city has not conducted such a conversion process before. Additionally, Reynolds added that residents can expect a different odor and taste to the water during this process.

“We’re going to have a safer and better system because of it,” he said.

What went wrong?

Reynolds acknowledged that the city has not yet singled out a specific impetus to the buildup of biomass; however, he said that the issue may have come from stagnant water.

“When we change seasons, when we’re not watering lawns or filling swimming pools ... you get water that’s been sitting for a while,” he said. “You want to keep that water moving as much as possible ... it all comes together to create a perfect storm.”

Councilman Rick Williams received the following response as he addressed WCID General Manager Ricky Garrett regarding the lack of chlorination and how it was possible for Killeen to be the only city in the water control district to be impacted by the low chlorine residual levels.

“There are many, many variables in that answer and I can’t speak to all of them. If kept in check, it’s safe ... if the biofilm is not kept in check, then it can turn into nitrification which, at that point, begins to eat away at the chlorine,” he said.

Who is to blame?

The City Council largely refrained from assigning blame in the incident, opting to laud Reynolds and his team for their support throughout the incident. However, Councilwoman Mellisa Brown stated that the issue clearly lay with the WCID.

“We’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars into WCID over the years and we receive water that doesn’t meet standards,” she said. “I think for the money we pay, we deserve proactive instead of reactive measures. I think the council should relook at [the WCID] contract.”

However, Garrett pushed back against Brown’s comments.

“As far as I’m aware, we do deliver water that meets the necessary standards,” he said.

Additionally, Garrett said that the WCID delivers water that is 400% above the necessary chlorination limit to city treatment plants, and that Killeen “receives the water that the other customers do.”

Not satisfied with Garrett’s answer, Brown continued to lay into the manager, demanding to know whether or not the WCID had seen the buildup of biomass.

“We’ve seen some variability [in chlorination levels], which we always do,” he said. “Raw water that comes from the lake varies daily, sometimes hourly. We take as many samples as we can, but it varies daily.”

According to Garrett, this incident was not foreseeable.

“Nitrification, as the experts have told us, can happen at any moment. It could have happened at any point,” he said.

Who’s got the bill?

So far, there is no red-line item to be presented to the city council, but Reynolds said that Killeen would be primarily responsible for compensating TCEQ and the WCID, as well as seven new booster stations.

When several council members asked why the city did not use booster stations, City Manager Kent Cagle explained that the city used to but discontinued the stations over a decade ago due to overchlorination concerns.

Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King pushed back against the claim that Killeen should the only one left with the check.

“I feel like, if we’re purchasing water, and it’s being treated, then we shouldn’t be getting into this situation,” she said, adding that the city of Killeen should work together, financially with the WCID.

Next Steps

According to the Public Works director, the city will continue to improve its infrastructure, and will proceed with the installation of booster stations.

Additionally, Public Works will now undergo conversion processes twice a year — without having to shut down the city’s water.

The city will continue to promote its RedAlert app, which pushes out official alert notifications.

However, both council members Michael Boyd and Mellisa Brown said that it may be necessary to look at the city’s contract with WCID.

jdowling@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7552

Locations

(3) comments

Alvin

@Noneofyourbiz and @TimeToMove: Your thoughts are appreciated but this drum has been beaten many times before.

Well we now have placed the blame on practically everyone except Killeen.

Now how did that happen? Could it be that Killeen was left sleeping next to the problem itself?

“When we realized we couldn’t combat that, we sought guidance from the TCEQ,” Reynolds said. Wasn't this' again, 'after the fact info relating to TECQ'.

Isn't this, the 'Deep Cycling' tanks similar in nature whereby the 'Super Chlorination of one's swimming pools to build up the nitrification that results in particulate contamination whereby you can then 'brush the walls f the swimming pool and by running the filter, remove a majority of the contaminate?

Copy: 'Surrounding cities will also undergo chlorine conversion; however, Killeen’s “deep-cycling” process will take a staggering 30 days. This is apparently due to the fact that the city has not conducted such a conversion process before. End of copy.

Why did not the city of Killeen do this before? Seems like a logical step to me.

Copy: 'So, 'what went wrong'?'

Continuation of copy: 'Reynolds acknowledged that the city has not yet singled out a specific impetus to the buildup of biomass; however, he said that the issue may have come from stagnant water.

“When we change seasons, when we’re not watering lawns or filling swimming pools ... you get water that’s been sitting for a while,” he said. “You want to keep that water moving as much as possible ... it all comes together to create a perfect storm.” End of copy.

But I thought that you had by noting the, and I quote:

'systems low chlorine levels are the result of nitration, caused by a film of bacteria that coats the inside of pipes.', “Bacteria builds up and eats ammonia, so during nitrification, bacteria creates a biofilm throughout a system that eats ammonia and makes chlorine less effective,” he said, 'Chlorine is necessary to combat microbes and harmful bacteria that may be present in water received from the Water Control and Improvement District', and 'Typically, the city combats nitrification by “deep cycling” tanks, increasing monitoring of their system and working with a water supplier, such as the WCID.' and “When we change seasons, when we’re not watering lawns or filling swimming pools ... you get water that’s been sitting for a while,” he said. “You want to keep that water moving as much as possible ... it all comes together to create a perfect storm.” End of quote.

Copy: 'So 'Who is to blame'?

The City Council largely refrained from assigning blame in the incident, opting to laud Reynolds and his team for their support throughout the incident. However, Councilwoman Mellisa Brown stated that the issue clearly lay with the WCID.

“We’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars into WCID over the years and we receive water that doesn’t meet standards,” she said. “I think for the money we pay, we deserve proactive instead of reactive measures. I think the council should relook at [the WCID] contract.” End of copy.

Isn't this 'after the fact fault finding?

However, Garrett pushed back against Brown’s comments.

“As far as I’m aware, we do deliver water that meets the necessary standards,” he said.

Copy: 'Additionally, Garrett said that the WCID delivers water that is 400% above the necessary chlorination limit to city treatment plants, and that Killeen “receives the water that the other customers do.” End of copy,

Copy: 'Not satisfied with Garrett’s answer, Brown continued to lay into the manager, demanding to know whether or not the WCID had seen the buildup of biomass.

“We’ve seen some variability [in chlorination levels], which we always do,” he said. “Raw water that comes from the lake varies daily, sometimes hourly. We take as many samples as we can, but it varies daily.”

Copy: 'According to Garrett, this incident was not forseeable. End of copy.

Well I'm not sure if that is the case at all. Did this newspaper not print that yourself had seen the same thing while in the employee of Waco, Texas so you could have foreseen the inevitable. But I must quibble with Ms. Brown in that 'she is trying to shelter the Killeen water department from any and all wrong doing and that is just not so.

Copy: 'So Who’s got the bill?'

Continuation of copy: 'So far, there is no red-line item to be presented to the city council, but Reynolds said that Killeen would be primarily responsible for compensating TCEQ and the WCID, as well as seven new booster stations.' End of copy.

Why does the city of Killeen feel obligated to compensate?

Why are you building 7 new booster stations in the 1st place? Wouldn't that be cause for 'creating a new water treating plant such as dropping the WCID-1 in it's entirety in the case of potable water and building a new water treating facility that can service Killeen thereby reducing all of the miles of transportation piping that we now service leaving the new homes that are being serviced by the Lake Stillhouse new water plant. It costs the city of Killeen entirely too much money to service that contract so I'm in favor of letting go of that $58 million dollar fiasco. It's a MUD-2 situation in the 1st place,

Copy: 'When several council members asked why the city did not use booster stations, City Manager Kent Cagle explained that the city used to but discontinued the stations over a decade ago due to overchlorination concerns.' End of copy.

That's not a good excuse as if and when samples are being drawn on a regular basis then it can be noted as when 'over-chlorination' is a problem or not and adjustment could be made. Besides, if you had the equipment installed over a decade ago, then you should have been aware of this problem way back when so that it had been noted 'over a decade ago'.

Copy: 'Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King pushed back against the claim that Killeen should the only one left with the check.

“I feel like, if we’re purchasing water, and it’s being treated, then we shouldn’t be getting into this situation,” she said, adding that the city of Killeen should work together, financially with the WCID.' End of copy.

He who screams the loudest is the guiltiest. Look at what been brought up today, the facts are insurmountable that, in my opinion, Killeen is to blame for the most part as this city can and will shoulder a large percentage of the guilt. They did not recognize what the samples were telling them. But I think WCID-1 is partly to blame in that they did not recognize what the samples were telling them and consented to a 400 % increase in chlorination value, and it went to all cities involved. So I say that's a plus for the other cities with Killeen included.

Copy: 'So, Next Steps

Continuation of copy: 'According to the Public Works director, the city will continue to improve its infrastructure, and will proceed with the installation of booster stations.

Additionally, Public Works will now undergo conversion processes twice a year — without having to shut down the city’s water.

However, both council members Michael Boyd and Mellisa Brown said that it may be necessary to look at the city’s contract with WCID.' End of copy.

I don't know what can be done about the 'city's contract with WCID because 'you either have a contract with an entity such as WCID-1 or you don't get water as 'they are the only game in town'. The city of Killeen can get it's own water treatment plant, but it would be expensive so I propose that they get a buy out of their existing contracts so as to get the capital necessary.

TimeToMove

I attended the Killeen City Council meeting last night. What surprised and disgusted me was that all eight board members wanted to be seen as giving each other high-fives and praising their colleagues on the work done to correct this mistake. I suspect that the builders of the Titanic would have a similar reaction when they found a shipwreck on the bottom of the sea. For this terrible incident, the Killeen City Council did not admit that they had part of this problem, but they were glad to appear in front of the public while not assigning blame to anyone. This meeting showed how many people could shirk their responsibility, for years of ignorance and seeming to smile for the bright lights.

All council members, except for Mellisa Bown, Councilmember at Large has their head in the sand on the subject of poor water quality for Killeen. Last night’s meeting highlighted that the City of Killeen has seen too many Boil Water notices in the past. The council must have forgotten the previous city-wide Boil Water notice in February 2021. Again, not fixing the issue of poor water supply only but continued illiteracy shown by the current Killeen City Council members. The council shows the appearance of a rich person just throwing money at the problem, then trying to fix the problem before it occurs again.

The Killeen City Council and related workers have failed to recognize the magnitude of their actions. I personally have not seen any notices of possible health concerns for people or animals ingesting ammonia or chlorine water, actions to help local businesses, or a formal public notification process from this council. Last night proved that the Killeen City Council is more about a public appearance in front of the cameras or YouTube.

The Killeen Fire Chief admitted that he alone was God of the water distribution supply. In his personal comments from last night, the Chief mentioned that he alone decides who does and does not receive allotted distributed bottle water. Places like public schools, low-income housing occupants, and others have to seek an audience with the Killeen Fire Chief in order to receive a thumbs up or down.

It was true, the Killeen City Council and city managers will not assign blame to anyone for this problem. The problem of poor water supply will continue to exist for the City of Killeen today and in the future. As long as the city managers rely on outdated guidance, Killeen homes and business will endure many more poor-quality water notifications and instructions to Boil Water. The Killeen City Council does not understand that to assign blame is part of fixing the problem. Public recognition of each other can only show that they have turned a blind eye to the larger issues of a sinking city government that believes it’s unsinkable.

Noneofyourbiz

Let's talk truth about biofilm. Than maybe we should talk about gaslighting.

Biofilms in Drinking Water Distribution Systems: Significance and Control

Mark W. LeChevallier

A biofilm is a collection of organic and inorganic, living and dead material collected on a surface. It may be a complete film or, more commonly in water systems, small patches on pipe surfaces. Biofilms in drinking water pipe networks can be responsible for a wide range of water quality and operational problems. Biofilms can be responsible for loss of distribution system disinfectant residuals, increased bacterial levels, reduction of dissolved oxygen, taste and odor changes, red or black water problems due to iron or sulfate-reducing bacteria, microbial-influenced corrosion, hydraulic roughness, and reduced materials life (Characklis and Marshal, 1990).

Microorganisms in biofilms can include bacteria (including coccoid round, rod-shaped, filamentous, and appendaged bacteria), fungi, and higher organisms like nematodes, larvae, and Crustacea. Recently, researchers have shown that viruses and parasites like Cryptosporidium can be trapped in biofilms. Although viruses and Cryptosporidium do not grow in a biofilm, they can attach to biofilms after a contamination event. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly flush the distribution system to remove these organisms following a contamination event.

A primary reason that many water utilities become concerned with biofilms in drinking water systems is due to growth of coliform bacteria in the pipe network. In 1993 in the United States alone, nearly 4,400 water systems affecting 21 million people violated drinking water standards for total coliform bacteria (Pontius, 1995). Similar trends were noted for 1994 and 1995, with over 12,000 systems exceeding accepted coliform levels. Of concern are the nearly 2,000 systems every quarter that are significant noncompliers and repeatedly detect coliform bacteria in finished drinking water. Although some of these systems experience coliform occurrences due to cross connections and other operational defects, a large proportion of the systems can trace their problems to regrowth of the bacteria in distribution system biofilms.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.