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State looks into sewer problems in area city

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

SANGER — Several city manhole covers are in need of repair or replacement, according to a state environmental investigator who made an unannounced visit to Sanger on Thursday.

Karen Smith, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigator, also documented evidence of ongoing sewer overflow from a manhole into a pasture and creek adjacent to Lois Road near the Walmart Distribution Center.

The TCEQ received a complaint on Wednesday that alleged the sewer overflow.

This is the fifth wastewater violation in the last seven years for Sanger.

The last citation was issued in March 2012. Last spring, the state cited the city for failure to prevent unauthorized discharge of wastewater.

A Sanger resident reported that wastewater spillage on her land after heavy rains in a short timeframe caused sewage overflow.

According to the report, the city replaced manhole covers and bolted them down to prevent future overflowing.

But the threat of overflow remains until upgrades are made to the city’s infrastructure, City Manager Mike Brice said.

Brice said the city has infiltration issues and that another problem is that the drainage system overloads and causes spillage when there is heavy rainfall.

Last week, Smith found evidence of a manhole overflow in an area soaked with water, and she reported that there were “several deteriorating manholes along the same main sewer line.”

During the onsite visit, no active overflow was observed but rags and debris from a recent overflow were observed near the manhole area.

“The investigation is ongoing and the investigation findings will be documented in the investigation report, estimated to be completed next month,” TCEQ spokesman Terry Clawson said.

The city will receive a notice of violation, which is a written warning.

Once received, the city will have a fixed amount time to meet compliance. State officials have not determined how long Sanger will have to meet compliance as of Monday afternoon.

If the city fails to correct the violations in time, the TCEQ may then take enforcement action against the city.

Officials say the city’s greatest and most expensive need — to correct the sewer issues — is a new wastewater treatment plant. The cost of a new plant is estimated at $25 million, which would be financed over a 20- to 40-year period.

Brice said Sanger is still several years away from beginning construction on the plant, which will force the city to incur debt.

City officials are scheduled to conduct a wastewater survey this spring or summer to identify temporary fixes to the overflow problem until a new wastewater plant is constructed.

The city received a $316,000 community development block grant to replace and install a larger trunk line into the sewer plant.

The line serves the older part of town and is a source of much of the rainwater infiltration. The line is expected to be replaced during 2013-14, Brice said.

“This will buy us more time before we have to build a new treatment plant,” he said.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is .