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Longtime Brushy Creek fisherman cautiously optimistic as aquatic wildlife returns after wastewater overflow

Chris Johnson has fished Brushy Creek for 30 years. Now that Round Rock has improved its main wastewater facility, he's hopeful creek wildlife will bounce back.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — Chris Johnson fishes Brushy Creek every week.

"I've been leading guided tours for 16 years, owned my fly-fishing shop for 14," Johnson said as he tromped through a small grove in Cedar Park's Champion Park.

Johnson walked up to one of his favorite spots on Brushy Creek, where he found another fly fisherman nearby.

"You're, like, in the right place. It's the right morning. It feels fantastic," Johnson joked with the other angler, who brought his two daughters with him Monday. "You are looking at the history of Brushy Creek. It was not always this small."

Earlier this year, Johnson sent video and pictures to Round Rock city leaders regarding the health of the creek. He described the water looking like chocolate at the time, filled with suspended solids floating downstream from the Brushy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

RELATED: Neighbors continue voicing concerns as Round Rock deals with leak overflowing wastewater facility

"You couldn't fish it, couldn't even get in it. It was just, I mean, you had sludge, you had slime, you had solid matter that was leaving the plant. It was just a mess. It was an absolute mess," Johnson remembered.

Round Rock fixed the problem as quickly as possible with a new expansion starting to come online at its regional wastewater facility. The expansion added more capacity to treat wastewater and to handle the leaks in the system that overflowed the plant's aeration and filtration basins.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the health of the creek is getting better. A TCEQ representative "observed wildlife in the creek" earlier this month, according to the agency. TCEQ could not confirm if aquatic wildlife was as robust and varied as it was prior to the wastewater leaks identified by the City back in March.

Despite initial concerns, Johnson was pleasantly surprised with the wildlife he found downstream of the plant on Monday, his first time returning to the area after interviewing with KVUE back in June.

"I'm more optimistic that the creek is going to rebound at a faster rate than what I anticipated. Am I concerned? Yes," Johnson emphasized. "While I'm optimistic, I'm always concerned. It's my home water. I mean, I really do – I just love it. But it's not out of the woods yet. We still have a lot left to do to make sure that this stays in pristine condition."

As part of the improvements to the wastewater treatment facility, Round Rock will be adding new tertiary filters to sift through even some of the smallest particles. Those filters will be fully installed sometime in the next two to three years. The rest of the expansion project at the wastewater facility will finish around June 2023.


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