News Briefs: Texas Flooding Causes Wastewater Overflows

In this week's water and wastewater news, Texas cities deal with wastewater overflows, the EPA finalizes the Clean Water Rule and Western states receive federal funding for water projects.
News Briefs: Texas Flooding Causes Wastewater Overflows

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Heavy spring rains in Texas have caused a number of wastewater overflows across the state. The City of Austin reported 10 overflows, including eight at pump stations throughout the city. Officials said that health threats should be small because of extensive dilution. However, residents within a half-mile of the affected areas were advised to boil water.

In Houston, more than 100,000 gallons of untreated wastewater overflowed into the surrounding floodwaters. The city’s Department of Public Works and Engineering said that water damaged the electrical and mechanical systems at the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant.

At the River Road Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wichita Falls, staff implemented a flood plan as waters inched closer to the facility. Daniel Nix, utilities operations manager, told the Times Record News that sewer collection and sewer rehab vehicles had been moved. Staff had also placed sandbags around transformers and treatment chemicals.

The River Road plant last experienced severe flooding in 2007.

“We took the lessons learned from that flooding experience and applied it to our emergency plan this time,” Nix told the Times Record News.

To see images of the flooding, check out "10 Images From Flood-Weary Houston."

Source: Times Record News , KXAN

EPA Releases Clean Water Rule

On May 27, the EPA and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule, which was created to clearly protect streams and wetlands from pollution and degradation. According to a press release from the EPA, the rule:

  • Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters. The Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries. The rule says a tributary must show physical features of flowing water — a bed, bank and ordinary high water mark — to warrant protection. 
  • Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows they affect downstream waters. The rule sets boundaries on covering nearby waters for the first time that are physical and measurable.
  • Protects the nation’s regional water treasures. Science shows that specific water features can function like a system and affect the health of downstream waters. The rule protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California and Texas coastal prairie wetlands when they impact downstream waters.
  • Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.
  • Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The rule does not change how those waters are treated and encourages the use of green infrastructure.
  • Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Previously, almost any water could be put through a lengthy case-specific analysis, even if it would not be subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule significantly limits the use of case-specific analysis by creating clarity and certainty on protected waters and limiting the number of similarly situated water features.

The rule becomes effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Source: EPA press release

Feds Provide $50 Million for Western Water Projects

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced $50 million in federal funding for water conservation and reuse projects in 12-drought stricken Western states. According to a article, the money will go toward 60 projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Some of the proposed projects include a wastewater collection and treatment plant in Yucca Valley, which will replenish water groundwater in California; a recycled water pipeline in Silicon Valley and pumping stations to provide reclaimed water for irritation.

“It is absolutely critical that states and the federal government leverage our funding resources so that we can make each drop count,” said Jewell while visiting a wastewater purification plant in Los Angeles.



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