AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lost Creek resident Tim Beets didn’t need to see the overflowing raw sewage at a neighborhood wastewater plant Tuesday afternoon, to know what was happening.
“It was a smell so bad you could feel it,” said Beets, who lives across the fence from the Lost Creek wastewater treatment plant that malfunctioned. “It was like someone had smashed a rotten egg right in your face.”
Beets captured video of the sewage oozing down the side of a tank at the plant, which the city owns and operates, and he posted the video online. He said it was the second problem at the plant in weeks, and something needs to be done to prevent future problems.
According to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality report, the plant’s equalization basin overflowed causing 25,000 gallons of sewage to spill. The plant is located on Barton Creek, but city officials said none of the sewage got to into the waterway.
Workers “recovered virtually every single gallon” that spilled, Ayman Benyamin, a wastewater operations manager, told KXAN.
Wastewater treatment plants receive and process sewage, turning it into treated water that can be released back into lakes and streams. The City of Austin operates several treatment plants, some of which are massive. The South Austin Regional and Walnut Creek treatment plants can release a total of 150 million gallons of treated water per day. The Lost Creek plant is much smaller.
“Events like this are going to happen,” said Austin Water spokesman, Jason Hill, regarding the latest Lost Creek spill. “With that said, they do cause an inconvenience, and we understand that.”
This isn’t the first time the plant has malfunctioned, and Beets said he doesn’t believe enough is being done to fix the plant before malfunctions occur.
TCEQ records show the plant had a similar malfunction Oct. 31, 2013. In that incident, the same type of tank overflowed and 2,500 gallons spilled into the Barton Creek watershed.
And again, in October of 2015, the plant spilled 25,000 gallons from the equalization basin. Severe thunderstorms triggered the problem, according to a TCEQ complaint report.
Recently, on Aug. 12, TCEQ received a complaint that the Lost Creek plant is not being adequately maintained. That complaint remains “open.”
Hill said the city took over operation of the plant from the Lost Creek Municipal Utility District in 2014, and the city continues to integrate the plant into its wastewater system. The city is phasing in fixes to the plant, and there are plans on the books to improve the equalization basin by the end of 2016.
And KXAN has mapped every public, private and industrial wastewater plant in Travis County. You can see the map below.