The exterior of the B&W Gatherings Wastewater Treatment Facility in Granite Shoals. A 2,000-gallon sewage leak was reported to have been contained within the property lines of the facility, but residents and city officials say otherwise. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
At a Granite Shoals City Council meeting Wednesday, Dec. 14, councilors and Interim City Manager Peggy Smith urged residents to reach out to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and file complaints regarding the recent failures of the B&W Gatherings Wastewater Treatment Facility owned by Aqua Texas Inc. Smith filed a complaint with the TCEQ on behalf of the city on Nov. 28.
Councilors also requested that Aqua Texas District Manager Lorenzo Cruz set up a face-to-face presentation with them to explain the discrepancies between the company’s statements and witness accounts. They also want a report on how the company plans to fix things.
Cruz was expected to attend Wednesday’s meeting but didn’t show.
Official statements from Aqua Texas, which owns and operates the wastewater treatment facility, stated that no sewage left its property and that a local technician promptly attended to the leak and alarms heard by surrounding neighbors.
Neighbors say the leak progressed throughout the holiday weekend and eventually flooded the grass around the plant, soaking the ground near a dog park, and potentially ended up in Lake LBJ, which is just yards from the facility’s fence line.
Residents’ concerns were amplified by the fact the treatment plant is set to provide service to the Granite Pointe subdivision, which is currently under construction on Highcrest Drive. Representatives from the subdivision’s developer, Sterling Creek Builders, assured the council the plant would be replaced to accommodate the new development.
A key concern of residents and the council was the lack of communication surrounding the leak.
“The incident was reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” the company responded when asked by DailyTrib.com why neighbors weren’t made aware of the leak. “Since the discharge was contained on the property, and there was no potential danger to human health, safety, or the environment, a broader communication was not necessary.”
Granite Shoals Fire Chief Tim Campbell, a resident of Tropical Hideaway condominiums, which are served by the plant, stated that he personally saw the overflow on Nov. 27.
“The overflow was evident,” he said.
He claimed to have seen several inches of standing water in the grass surrounding the facility.
Another Tropical Hideaway resident, Bobby Gallagher, supplied DailyTrib.com with photos of the sewage outside of the facility and said he and his wife saw the progression of the leak seeping outside of the fence line over the Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s concerning that these events occur and we are not notified as a community that there is an active leak,” he said. “Nothing is ever done to mitigate the flow from their property onto ours.”
Councilor Steve Hougen made the point that if the leak was caused by corroded wires, it was a severe maintenance issue that needed to be addressed.
“That seems to be a maintenance problem,” Hougen said. “There needs to be more responsible maintenance so we can trust Aqua Texas to maintain the plant and also upgrade it.”
The council discussed what action was possible and determined that residents would have to band together and file complaints with as many agencies and representatives as possible to put pressure on Aqua Texas.
Mayor Aaron Garcia said the Lower Colorado River Authority should be notified of the leak because of possible contamination in Lake LBJ, which supplies the city’s drinking water.
Interim City Manager Smith made it clear that if the leak reached the lake, the city’s drinking water would not be adversely affected.
“Our water is treated and disinfected,” she said. “We’re not picking up raw wastewater and shipping it off to our customers.”