1. What is a water reclamation facility? Is reclaimed water safe to use?
A water reclamation facility cleans the water that goes down drains in our homes and businesses so it can be reused for beneficial purposes. This highly-treated wastewater is called reclaimed water and must meet strict water quality standards established by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Reclaimed water can be returned to the environment, used to irrigate landscape, for commercial and industrial processes, or to replenish water supplies. Reclaimed water is a critical part of Fort Worth’s future water supply and is safe for public health and the environment.
2. Why does Fort Worth need a water reclamation facility in the Mary’s Creek area? Why not use the Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility instead of building a new facility?
The city’s Wastewater System Master Plan determined Fort Worth needs a new water reclamation facility on the west side. The current plan is to initiate design of this facility after receiving the permit from the TCEQ, with an anticipated plant startup of 2026. The new plant will intercept and treat wastewater flows generated from west Fort Worth that would otherwise be conveyed thirty miles through existing wastewater collection pipelines to the Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility. It has been determined that those flows would overload the capacity of many of the existing pipelines to the Village Creek facility, requiring expensive capacity improvements in order to prevent overflows. Instead of investing in those capacity improvements, Fort Worth can save substantial costs by constructing the Mary’s Creek Water Reclamation Facility.
The Mary’s Creek basin is centrally located on the west side of Fort Worth between two other drainage basins and near potential water reuse opportunities. The new facility would also serve parts of western Tarrant and eastern Parker counties within Fort Worth’s current or future city limits.
3. What kinds of treatment processes will the Mary’s Creek facility include?
Treatment is accomplished primarily through a biological process, cleaning water the same way it is cleaned in nature but at a much faster rate. While the biological treatment process remains similar to the existing process at Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility, the city will use the newest technology and equipment designs in order to optimize treatment efficiencies within a compact footprint. One such opportunity is to incorporate membrane bioreactors into the treatment process. The membrane technology combines both the biological treatment and filtration steps by using modules consisting of thousands of hollow membranes placed within an air-fed basin. The air allows the biological process to occur while the membranes remove very small particles from the wastewater and allows clean water to pass through to disinfection. Another opportunity is to incorporate ultraviolet light into the disinfection process to inactivate bacteria and viruses, minimizing the use of chemicals at the Mary’s Creek plant.4. How big will the new facility be?
The permit application has an initial phase of 10 million gallons per day with expansion up to 15 mgd. Future expansions, which would be timed dependent on growth, could increase the average day capacity up to 25 mgd. By comparison, the existing Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility has an average day capacity of 166 mgd.
5. Will there be a lot of odors from this facility?
No. Odor control will be achieved by a combination of enclosing odor generating process within buildings and using the latest odor scrubbing technologies to treat air streams. Fort Worth is committed to using advanced technology in order to minimize odors and other air contaminants.
6. What about increased noise, lights and traffic from the new facility?
Most treatment equipment will be located inside a building or submerged in process tanks, which will significantly limit noise pollution. In addition, a buffer zone will surround the facility site to dissipate noise before it reaches surrounding areas.
While there are security requirements that must be met, Fort Worth is committed to designing lighting systems and installing lighting fixtures that would minimize any light pollution
During construction there will be an increased presence of trucks on local roadways. Every effort will be made to minimize inconvenience caused by construction or other factors. Once the facility is completed, there will be a limited number of trucks going to and from the facility for maintenance activities, chemical deliveries and biosolids transport.
7. What’s the impact on my water bill?
The Water Department’s capital improvement plan for 2018 through 2022 includes funding for the plant design work using impact fees. Impact fees are collected from new development and used to offset the costs associated with new facilities to serve new development – so these fees help reduce the financial burden on existing ratepayers.
The actual plant construction costs are not in the current five-year CIP, as we expect to fund construction of the Mary’s Creek Plant in 2023. The City has several options to finance the construction of the plant. The various options are being investigated and a decision will be made once the permit has been approved by the TCEQ.
8. What are the next steps to make this proposed facility a reality?
The process to obtain a permit usually takes 18 months to three years to complete and provides an opportunity for public comment at certain stages.
The City of Fort Worth applied on March 23, 2018 to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to construct the facility. On May 11, 2018, TCEQ issued the formal notice that the administrative review of the application was complete, and the technical review would begin. Fort Worth then published the required newspaper notices within 30 days.
On March 16, 2020, TCEQ completed its technical review of the application and issued a draft permit for comment. Fort Worth published the required notices of its availability for review and comment in English and Spanish on April 3 and 4, respectively.
After TCEQ issues the permit, Fort Worth will seek proposals for the detailed design of the facility. It takes another four to five years to do the design engineering, bidding and construction. The city has committed that during the design phase, it will organize another community advisory committee composed of representatives of neighborhoods and property owners in the immediate vicinity of the facility.
9. How will the new facility impact our water supply?
The facility will have a positive impact on water supply. Because this is a water reclamation facility, the reclaimed water would be available for non-potable purposes, such as irrigation. This reduces the demand on our potable supplies.
The 2016 Region C Water Plan approved by the Texas Water Development Board calls for 27 percent of our water supply to come from conservation and reuse by 2070. Without a water reclamation facility located on the west side of Fort Worth, reuse would not be feasible in that area. Because most of the service area is undeveloped, there is a tremendous opportunity to create an extensive reuse system.
10. Will there be discharges from this facility into Mary’s Creek and, if so, will that harm the water quality in the creek?
The reclaimed (treated) water not piped elsewhere for irrigation or other uses would flow into Mary’s Creek. The purpose of the permitting process is to establish water quality limits for the discharged water so it does not harm the creek. The more water that is reused, the less water will be discharged to Mary’s Creek. The TCEQ has established water quality standards within Mary’s Creek that protect aquatic life and other beneficial uses of the stream. Extensive water quality modeling is performed before and during the permitting process so the TCEQ can set protective water quality parameters in the discharge permit.
11. Will increased discharges into the creek increase flooding?
The discharge from the reclamation facility will not impact flooding conditions in the basin. The city’s Transportation and Public Works (TPW) Department is studying what happens in the Mary’s Creek watershed during significant rainfall events. Accurate floodplain maps during the 100-year storm event are being generated as part of this study. The peak flow from the water reclamation facility is anticipated to result in less than a one-eighth of an inch increase in water surface elevation at the Mary’s Creek crossing with Loop 820.
12. Will there be more erosion along the banks of the creek from increased discharges?
The TPW Department’s Stormwater Management Division determined the risk of increased erosion is negligible because the future maximum discharge from the facility will increase the annual flows by less than 1 percent. The Mary’s Creek plant’s daily flows may actually help mitigate stream bank erosion by promoting root growth and sustainability of vegetation.
13. What dangerous chemicals will be used at the new facility?
No chemicals with any potential hazardous offsite impacts will be used at the facility. Wastewater treatment is all about protecting public health and the environment. The process is biological, cleaning water the same way it is cleaned in nature but at a much faster rate. Disinfection is anticipated to be accomplished using ultraviolet light rather than gaseous chlorine. Chlorine used will be in liquid form, similar to bleach you can purchase at the grocery store.
14. Will the facility be built to the property line?
No. The TCEQ requires a minimum buffer zone of 150 feet between the treatment units and the property line. In addition, the proposed site has existing industrial uses along its southern and eastern borders.
15. Is this going to be a regional facility?
A regional facility is a possibility, but Fort Worth needs this facility regardless of whether another community becomes a customer. Because of the high level of treatment that will be achieved and the anticipated high quality of the reclaimed water, a future regional facility could be beneficial for regional water quality in Mary’s Creek and the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. However, if the Mary’s Creek plant were to become a regional facility, any regional customer would be required to contribute to help offset the facility’s cost to ratepayers within the City of Fort Worth.
16. How will biosolids be handled?
Biosolids generated from the treatment process will be dewatered and then stored in an odor controlled environment protected from the elements until being removed from the site. Biosolids will be hauled from the site by truck.
17. How can I find out more information about the project and its progress?
Get connected and stay informed about the Mary’s Creek Reclamation facility project. Visit the city website to sign up for updates. Enter your email address and select the topics that interest you.
18. How do I comment on the environmental permitting process?
There is information on the TCEQ website about how to sign up to be on the TCEQ notification list and submit comments.