KINGSLAND, Texas (KXAN) — More than 50,000 gallons of sewage spilled into Lake LBJ after debris from the historic flooding last year crushed an underwater pipeline.
The Kingsland Municipal Utility District became aware of the leak on July 27 after someone reported seeing bubbles to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) coming up next to the FM 1431 bridge.
Divers went down 20 feet and dug through more than eight feet of silt deposited by the flooding in Oct. 2018 to find a sizable piece of concrete sitting on top of the pipeline. It’s unclear if the concrete came from the RM 2900 bridge that washed away nearby.
“Based on how far down [the pipeline] is and how much silt is on there and the size of the piece of concrete, their recommendation was that we go ahead and replace that piece of line,” said Anita LaBier, the general manager for the Kingsland MUD.
LaBier cannot definitively say how long the sewage leak had been going on, but she said divers came in November last year after the flood to inspect this same wastewater pipeline and found no issues.
“We had some big tree limbs that were on the same line that were moved,” she explained. “And it was not leaking at that time.”
On Tuesday, crews welded together more than 600 feet of new pipeline to replace the damaged one shut off underwater. The LCRA shut down boat traffic near the bridge Wednesday so that crews could safely float the new line across the lake and sink it.
On Thursday, divers worked to anchor the new pipeline to the bottom of the lake. LaBier said the Kingsland MUD would like to get everything back online by Friday.
“We will not reopen our lift station until we’re sure that everything’s connected and working properly,” she said.
The work is happening directly in front of Billy Walden’s lakefront business, the Llanorado Lodge & Bait Shop in Kingsland. He said initially learning about the sewage leak made him worry for people’s safety.
“This is a recreational lake, and a lot of people come to have fun,” Walden said. “And knowing that could make a lot of people sick scares me.”
Ron Cunningham, the Llano County judge, told KXAN that the county would have alerted visitors immediately if any danger existed. According to LaBier, the Kingsland MUD has kept in “constant contact” with both the LCRA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Brian McGovern, a media relations specialist for TCEQ, wrote in a statement:
“On July 27, 2019, TCEQ was notified by Kingsland Municipal Utility District of a leaking sewer line located in the Colorado arm of Lake LBJ. Kingsland MUD has been in contact with TCEQ during assessment and repair activities. The leak is believed to be caused by a large piece of concrete that damaged the line during the October 2018 flood event.
“Kingsland MUD began repairs on Aug. 12, 2019, to install a new wastewater line. Repairs are expected to be completed Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. Kingsland MUD has been pumping and hauling wastewater to the wastewater treatment plant while repairs are being made.
“Kingsland MUD issued a media notification on Aug. 6, 2019, in accordance with 30 Texas Administrative Code § 319.302, and the MUD will file a report after repairs are complete and the new line is in service. LCRA is aware of the situation and has assisted with controlling boat traffic during the repair. “
LaBier said the sewage discharge has had no immediate impact to the Public Water System of Kingsland. She said the leak happened downstream of the public water supply, so the water supply from Kingsland Water is safe to drink.