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Neighbors praise wastewater improvements as Brushy Creek runs clear

For months, Round Rock has worked to improve its wastewater treatment facility after discovering more than a dozen leaks earlier this year.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — During the most recent Round Rock City Council meeting, Director of Utilities Michael Thane laid out the improvements made so far to the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment facility.

"The new capacity we brought online was great, but now we're going back and cleaning and rehabbing the existing part of the plant," Thane told City Council. 

According to Thane, workers have inspected 42 miles of piping that lead into the regional facility. Inspectors found 15 breaks and fixed all of them. For months, neighbors reported seeing floating solids downstream of the wastewater facility in Brushy Creek. The City fell out of compliance one of those months, but was within Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) limits every other month.

Now, water has cleared up almost completely.

"The creek is probably as clear as I've seen it in the last two years," Martin Milner told the city council during the same meeting.

Milner has led the calls for improvements to the wastewater treatment facility for nearly two years. While he is pleased with the progress, he said his calls won't end just yet.

"I still have issues with the validity of the measurements," Milner said. "If I could believe those measurements were consistent and we're taking accurate measurements of what's being deposited into the creek, I'd quit."

According to Thane's presentation, testing for E. coli and floating solids in the creek have been within TCEQ's limits for months. Milner argues the data may be accurate from the tests the City takes, but there was still too much unwanted matter in the creek, which makes him question the testing itself.

"What that tells you is those measurements are not protecting this creek because we had a horrendous pollution going on on this creek," Milner said. "Month after month after month, we were told we're meeting our requirements before any action ever happened."

Michael Leibin lives along Brushy Creek and agrees with Milner the progress has been noticeable.

"Two months ago it was … chocolate brown. Pretty, pretty nasty," Leibin said. "Today it's beautiful. Clear. You could see the fish swimming around."

Thane continued in his presentation that improvements would continue on the regional facility's expansion by adding new filters that will cost approximately $23 million.

"They're cloth media filters," Thane said. "They help take out suspended solids after you go through the process. They're another step in the process where you take a filter that takes out more solids before we discharge you to creek."

In addition to the filters, Thane listed improvements such as continued inspections by Leander, Cedar Park and Austin into their inflows to the regional facility, additional monitoring of wastewater flow, increased flow to the West Wastewater Treatment Plant and discussing the master plan for the regional facility's expansion.

However, the improvements listed by Thane could take up to 2.5 more years to fully implement and complete.

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