The Brazos River Authority (BRA)
The Brazos River Authority was the parent agency of WMARSS. Colonel Walter Wellsfirst fostered the idea as the BRA general manager in April of 1965 and worked with the owner cities in exploring the feasibility of constructing a regional sewerage system for Waco area. After much work, a proposal was adopted It was the first system in the state designed to serve an entire metropolitan area and received the endorsement of Joe D. Carter, Chairman of the Texas Water, Quality Board, and Hugh Yantis, the Texas Water Quality Board’s Executive Director.
The wastewater plant began operation in 1970 and at the present site in July 1985. The owner cities previously operated individual wastewater treatment plants. These plants’ treatment technologies ranged from trickling filters, activated sludge, and oxidation ditches and lagoons.
In February 2004, the WMARSS coalition was formed when the Wastewater Treatment Plant was reacquired from BRA.
From 1990 to 2000, federal census data shows that the population of McLennan County increased by approximately 24,000 residents. Since 2000, a steady growth rate along the I-35 corridor, particularly in Southern McLennan County, has resulted in the present county population of approximately 224,000. This growth has brought increased sales tax revenues, increased property values, as well as increased commercial and retail business. Also associated with this population growth is the need for new or enhanced infrastructure. Roads, power lines, water mains and wastewater services all will need to be expanded to meet the demands of the growing population.
The Central Wastewater Plant, located approximately one-half mile south of Loop 340 on the Brazos River, was last expanded in 1983. Since that time, the Central Plant has been rated at a treatment capacity of 37.8 million gallons per day (MGD). In 2006, a capacity study was conducted to determine how much treatment capacity was available at the plant. The study revealed that the plant was at 83% of its rated capacity. Per Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) criteria, the plant would have to be expanded or a new plant constructed to add capacity. The team of Lockwood Andrews & Newnam (LAN) and G.E. Walker & Associates were commissioned to determine how to best provide the needed capacity. Alternatives developed included a possible expansion of the Central Plant and/or construction of additional, smaller satellite treatment plant facilities.
Regional Capacity Challenges
The City of Lorena’s wastewater system, located in Southern McLennan County, has also been impacted by the significant population growth. In 2004, the TCEQ placed the City of Lorena under an enforcement order due to the fact that the City was experiencing treatment plant capacity issues, and the existing treatment plant had reached the end of its service life. Because of the enforcement order and Lorena’s need for additional treatment capacity, a dialogue was started with WMARSS to explore the possibility of a solution that would help both parties. As a result, Lorena became a member of WMARSS.
Upon Lorena’s entry into WMARSS, the WMARSS board then directed the engineering team of LAN/G.E. Walker and Associates to include Lorena’s needs in their capacity study. WMARSS needed approximately 5 to 6 million gallons per day of new capacity and Lorena needed 500,000 gallons per day of new capacity, for a total of 5.5 to 6.5 mgd of new capacity for the regional system.
Bull Hide Creek
After reviewing several alternatives, it was determined that in the interest of time and to facilitate the development of additional wastewater capacity for all parties, a permit for expansion of the existing Lorena Wastewater Treatment Plant, along with a permit to build an additional 1.5 mgd facility on Bullhide Creek should be submitted to the TCEQ. However, it was understood that work on the preliminary engineering reports and analyses would continue so as to ensure that the needs of all WMARSS member cities would be met in the most cost effective manner possible.
To further facilitate the final design and construction process of the needed WMARSS capacity, the team of R.W. Beck, Inc and CDM were retained in August of 2007 to assist WMARSS in implementing the projects necessary to achieve the capacity expansion; from design of the facilities through the initial stages of operation. The first step in this process was to perform value engineering and to ensure that the most cost effective alternatives had been selected for implementation. Under the guidance of R.W. Beck and CDM, along with input from LAN and G.E. Walker, the WMARSS board agreed that an expansion of the Central Plant by 5.5 mgd along with the construction of a 1.5 MGD satellite treatment plant with a discharge into Bullhide Creek could provide the additional treatment capacity needed for the planning horizon of 25 years in the most cost effective manner possible.
Once the final alternatives were determined, further examination of potential plant sites, as identified by G.E. Walker, was undertaken. This included evaluation of three (3) potential sites for the Bullhide Creek Plant, consisting of:
- 233 acre site located South of Cooksey Lane, otherwise referred to as the Smith Property
- 146 acre site located south of FM 3148 and North of Cooksey Lane, otherwise referred to as the Warren Brothers Farms property
- 185 acre site located East of Old Waco-Temple Road and the West side of Cooksey Lane owned by the Big Creek Construction Company
Based upon these analyses, it was determined that the Smith Property, located just south of Cooksey Lane, met all the criteria for an ideal plant site because:
- There was sufficient undeveloped land available to ensure an adequate buffer from the plant for surrounding neighbors
- The purchase price of the land was the most cost effective for the WMARSS Ratepayers
- There was enough land area located outside of the floodplain to allow for plant construction
- The land along the creek drops in elevation relative to the surrounding properties making it easier to buffer
- There is sufficient access to public roadways to access the plant site
- The location is such that the construction of a plant in this area would resolve a significant portion of WMARSS capacity issues as well as resolving Lorena’s capacity needs.
In the fall of 2007, the WMARSS board agreed to go forward with the purchase of a 233-acre tract of land just south of Cooksey Lane on Bullhide Creek. Purchase of the property was completed on March 14, 2008. As of March 20, 2008, WMARSS has re-filed its permit with the TCEQ, and is currently awaiting approval of the permit from the Agency. In anticipation of this permit issuance, WMARSS will soon be retaining a design engineer to finalize the plans for the proposed facility.
The WMARSS Board’s decision to pursue the Bullhide Creek facility was based upon several key considerations, including:
- The chosen plant location gives the ability to provide service to a large area of McLennan County that has been experiencing rapid growth. This includes service to the local area should residents request it. However, local property owners will not be forced to connect to the WMARSS system. Should it be requested, landowners whose property is adjacent to the interceptor will be permitted one four (4) inch tap to service a single property on their land. Retail service to that landowner will be provided pursuant to a service agreement with the water and wastewater entities providing service in the area. Any additional service requests, beyond the single connection for one residence, will be subject to the governing entity who is granted the authority, by the State, to provide wastewater service to that particular property.
- The chosen plant site satisfied complex criteria necessary to provide safe, adequate and cost effective treatment services, while complying with the numerous laws and regulations of the State of Texas that regulate wastewater treatment facilities. Moreover, the wastewater treatment facility will incorporate the latest technologies in an effort to implement every reasonable precaution in order to safeguard the environment.
- In January 2008, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the City of Lorena entered into an agreement which amended the 2004 enforcement order by requiring the City of Lorena to totally divert its wastewater flow to a regional wastewater facility within 2 years. Failure to comply with this agreement could result in significant legal action, fines, and penalties to the City of Lorena.
- There is currently a building moratorium in Lorena that cannot be lifted until additional wastewater treatment capacity is available. Without the construction of this plant, there could be a potentially negative impact to the quality-of-life in Lorena and the larger surrounding area.
- The Bullhide plant facility will incorporate all the latest wastewater treatment technologies to control odor and safeguard our water supply.
- The location for the wastewater treatment facility that was ultimately selected along Bullhide Creek was based upon the best information available to the WMARSS Board. Further study of the plant site and coordination with local property owners will be necessary to ensure that the plant will meet the needs of WMARSS while also minimizing the impact of the plant to the local area.
It is the intent of the WMARSS member cities to cultivate a positive working relationship with all affected stakeholders, as well as continuing to be a leader in safeguarding the environment and ensuring a positive legacy for the future.