Refugio fined $11,050 for improper wastewater treatment

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

Feb. 18, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2014 at 8:19 p.m.

Refugio is in the process of paying an $11,050 fine issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for issues with its wastewater treatment facility.

"We're having to redo our whole water structure over here because it's so old and outdated," said Mayor Joey Heard.

The treated waste does not pose a health concern, said TCEQ spokeswoman Lisa Wheeler.

The wastewater treatment clarifier is continuously clogged with silt, the mayor said.

The city was recently granted a $3 million loan from the state to build a new system, he said. The project, along with two other city water projects, places Refugio in debt until 2042.

While the wastewater system is being rebuilt, the city will likely continue to accrue fines from TCEQ, Heard said.

Refugio was fined $11,050 after water quality discharge data submitted by Refugio to TCEQ showed levels exceeding the limit for ammonia nitrogen, Wheeler said. The ammonia nitrogen measurements are used to determine the quality of the effluent as it leaves wastewater facilities to ensure protection of the public and the environment.

Measurements were taken from treated effluent after the waste was processed through the city's wastewater treatment facility, said Wheeler.

Documents from TCEQ show the fine was accrued after five years and six notices of violation.

Wheeler said a simplified model was used to evaluate the level of ammonia nitrogen to determine whether the discharged amount of pollutants exceeded levels protective of human health and the environment, she said.

"We did this to ourselves through a long process that has just accumulated," Heard said.

He said the new system is 10 weeks ahead of schedule and should be in operation by the end of this year.



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