AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The City of Amarillo announced that its only septic waste disposal facility, the Hollywood Road Water Treatment Facility, was put under “emergency procurement” operations on Monday to remove sludge from the equalization basin in the wake of its most recent spill over the weekend. Further, officials said that additional improvement projects will be put underway for the facility.
As previously reported on MyHighPlains.com, the most recent spill at the HRWTF on SE Loop 335 went from Friday evening into Saturday morning and released 141,000 gallons of partly-treated wastewater into Playa Lake 40.
The most recent weekend spill at the HRWTF facility marks at least the sixth reported spill since September 2022. While other spills have occurred at other lift stations and the Osage Water Treatment Plant, the HRWTF facility has been the site of the majority of at least 13 reported wastewater spills since the beginning of 2022.
As noted by the city, the facility is the only one in the Amarillo area for septic waste disposal and deals with waste from both inside and outside the city limits. The River Road Wastewater Plant, built in 1927, lacks the permit to accept that waste.
City officials noted that Amarillo Assistance City Manager Floyd Hartman recently updated the city council on the condition of HRWTF, which was built in 1965. The city also recently approved its 2023-2024 budget, including $17 million set aside for repair and improvement projects at the facility.
“There are three primary reasons for the state of the Hollywood Road plant,” said Hartman, “A lack of maintenance that goes back decades, the age of the plant and the recent flooding event that caused significant damage to this facility.”
The city noted that a part of the HRWTF is located in a flood plain, which was established after the facility was built.
During Hartman’s Sept. 12 presentation, the city noted that six critical projects for HRWTF were identified for officials:
- Overall site electrical
- Influent pump station
- North secondary clarifiers
“These were identified as critical needs to keep the plant in operation before the flooding event,” Hartman said. “At any given time, if we have such problems at this facility then we have to stop accepting waste from haulers. Otherwise this would result in federal and state violations and additional problems.”
Hartman said that there have been “very few improvements” at the facility over the years, and that even if the plant had been “in perfect condition, the recent flooding event would have caused significant damage.”
City officials noted that the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are helping the city evaluate the needs at the facility. In July, stabilization projects were identified for the HRWTF, including:
- The removal, treatment and disposal of contaminated material in the equalization basin
- Playa remediation
- Restoring damaged bar screens
- Restoring the grit removal process back to effective operation
- Repairing the electrical system in the Motor Control Center
While remediation efforts are ongoing, Hartman said other improvements will be needed at the facility. He also said the Amarillo City Council has been open to a master plan to expand the facility.
According to Hartman, part of the $17 million set aside for the plant is dedicated to designing an overall plan for the facility. For now, Hartman said it is impossible to determine the overall cost of the project.
“Now, it will cost a significant amount of money and then we will still have to find a mechanism to pay for the ultimate plant, but we’re working those plans out right now,” Hartman said, noting the City allocated $2 million out of the reserves last year for mitigation efforts.
“All of those monies we spent on this existing plant will be beneficial in the future but we will start the design immediately of the solution and start with with a consulting engineer to design that,” he continued. “And you’ll see that selection process occurring over the next few months that we have somebody actually on hired to do that design.”
More information on the water reclamation and water production operations of the City of Amarillo can be found on its website. Further, while more information about and the results of the improvement projects have yet to be seen, the city noted previously that it notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality after the most recent spill and is working to minimize environmental impacts.