Suchocki attempted to make a motion that the city council convene as a fact-finding body within the next 10 days and allow for testimony by employees regarding “alleged involvement in keeping this matter quiet.”
The mayor noted that the agenda item was a discussion item only, so no action could be taken.
Shaffstall said the TCEQ fines were addressed in the wastewater expenses section of the proposed budget released Aug. 1 with a explanatory footnote attached to the fines and penalties line item stating, “given the age [of] the treatment plant and the latest TCEQ inspection, the city anticipates entering into a remediation program.”
“It wasn’t hidden in a budget – it’s in a budget,” Shaffstall said. “Our budget document is incredibly transparent.”There were three main issues noted by TCEQ, Shaffstall said, including a reporting issue from June through December of 2012.
Staff was not reporting fully to TCEQ as regulations required, he said, adding that the issue has been resolved with training of city staff by TCEQ.
The second issue was a backup, which was self-reported, as required, Shaffstall said.
During a resulting inspection, TCEQ ran a series of tests and found that effluent released was too strong.
One of the issues affecting the quality of effluence is the potency of what is coming into the plant, according to Shaffstall, who said the current design of some of the wastewater lift stations holds sewage too long, sending the sewage to the plant too strong and requiring the plant to work much harder.
Another issue is requirement for the plant to have sewage arriving consistently, according to Shaffstall.
Though there is always a level of risk in the wastewater treatment business, such as when the city gets a large rain, the lift station upgrades should help address the ongoing effluence-quality issue, according to Shaffstall.