News Briefs: Texas WWTP Could See Catastrophic Failure Without Upgrades

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, suburban Chicagoans are warned not to drink tap water due to elevated levels of lead

A 60-year-old wastewater treatment facility in Paris, Texas, is pursuing a $30 million facility upgrade in a race against the clock. A former plant superintendent told the city in 2015 that there would be a catastrophic failure at the plant inside 10 years without upgrades.

“The orbital walls are steps away from caving in,” the superintendent told the city council.

Current plant superintendent Timothy Bright says the sooner upgrades are started, the better. The facility treats approximately 4.2 mgd.

Researchers Design Device to Collect and Purify Water

A new device for collecting and purifying water — developed at The University of Texas at Austin — was inspired by a rose and, while more engineered than enchanted, is an improvement on current methods, according to researchers. Each flower-like structure costs less than 2 cents and can produce more than half a gallon of water per hour per square meter.

A team led by associate professor Donglei Fan in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a new approach to solar steaming for water production — a technique that uses energy from sunlight to separate salt and other impurities from water through evaporation.

In a paper published in the most recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials, the authors outline how an origami rose provided the inspiration for developing a new kind of solar-steaming system made from layered, black paper sheets shaped into petals. Attached to a stem-like tube that collects untreated water from any water source, the 3D rose shape makes it easier for the structure to collect and retain more liquid.

Suburban Chicagoans Warned Not to Drink Water Due to Elevated Lead

Some residents of suburban Chicago found out Saturday morning — courtesy of some bottled water on their front stoops paired with an announcement from their water utility — that their water was unsafe to drink due to elevated lead levels.

The utility, Aqua Illinois, told customers they found high levels of lead in some communities in the south suburbs of the city.

“The first thing that came to my mind was the situation in Flint, Michigan,” University Park resident Sarah Boyd tells NBC TV-5 Chicago.

The actual announcement came in the form of a robocall telling residents not to drink their tap water. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are requesting that all University Park, Green Garden, and Monee Township customers not drink, cook, or use tap water for brushing teeth,” the utility company said in a letter. “You may still use water from the tap to bathe or wash hands.”

The utility is planning to flush hydrants in the area and put a treatment protocol into effect.

Michigan Attorney General Dismisses Pending Charges in Flint Water Crisis Cases

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan Attorney Generals’ Office has dismissed all pending criminal charges that came as a result of the Flint Water Crisis and will start from scratch with an expanded investigation.

Charges were dismissed for eight remaining defendants including those against the former director of the Department of Health and Human Services, other health department officials, two former Flint emergency managers and employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Flint.

A statement from the Attorney General says the dismissals were in response to problems with the original investigation and that it’s possible the original defendants will be recharged or that new defendants will be charged.


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