Mary's Creek Water Reclamation Facility

Fort Worth, TRWD and Leonard agree on permit terms for new water reclamation facility in west Fort Worth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13, 2022

Fort Worth, Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) and Martha Leonard have agreed to terms that allow Fort Worth to obtain a discharge permit for the planned Mary’s Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

The terms are a result of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) mediated discussions that paralleled the contested case hearing process. Fort Worth has agreed to more stringent treatment requirements to further protect water quality.

Leonard, who is a downstream, private landowner on the banks of Mary’s Creek, said, “I am very pleased and proud of the city and TRWD for coming to a mutual agreement with a plan that both increases water supply and protects water quality for all its citizens and customers.  It is encouraging to see mediation successful.”

The TRWD Board of Directors will consider approving the settlement at its meeting on Tuesday. The Fort Worth City Council is expected to act at its May 24 meeting.

As part of the agreement, TRWD will permit, design and construct a project to divert flows from the Mary’s Creek channel downstream of Fort Worth’s facility to the existing TRWD water supply system.  There the water will be blended with water from other TRWD lakes. 

This type of reclamation project is an efficient use of water resources that keeps more water where it is most needed.  The project is among the lowest cost water supply alternatives available to the district – a benefit for all of TRWD’s customer base, including Fort Worth. 

“The settlement is a win-win solution that protects water quality, allows efficient use of water resources, and allows Fort Worth to move forward with the Mary’s Creek facility to support growth in the area,” said Rachel Ickert, TRWD chief water resources officer.

Fort Worth also can pursue direct non-potable use of the water for retail industrial and irrigation customers in the future.  Direct reclaimed water to customers in west Fort Worth is another cost effective water supply strategy and is in the State Water Plan.

“This agreement allows Fort Worth to move forward with the design of this much needed advanced treatment facility that will be protective of the environment.  At the same time, it provides both a direct and indirect reuse water supply that both Fort Worth and TRWD can use to support future growth in a financially prudent manner,” said Chris Harder, Fort Worth water director.

Starting the work to design and construct the Mary’s Creek facility is critical because proposed developments in Fort Worth will exceed the capacity of wastewater collection lines in the future.  Accordingly, Fort Worth will initiate the design process as soon as it receives a discharge permit from TCEQ. 

Fort Worth, TRWD y Leonard acuerdan términos de permiso de nueva planta de aguas residuales al oeste de Fort Worth(PDF, 174KB)

 

 

Background

This new facility will serve the needs of the growing western part of the city. Previous engineering studies evaluated collecting and treating wastewater from west Fort Worth at the Mary’s Creek Water Reclamation Facility, compared to significantly increasing the capacity of the wastewater collection system piping from west Fort Worth to the existing Village Creek Plant in east Fort Worth. 

The studies showed that constructing the Mary’s Creek facility would not only be the lowest cost alternative, but would also provide a reclaimed water supply to the area that could supplement and extend the existing water supply.  The State Water Plan includes the anticipated reclaimed water supply from the Mary’s Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

A water reclamation facility cleans the water that goes down drains in our homes and businesses so it can be reused for beneficial purposes. At the Mary’s Creek plant, as much of the treated water as possible will be conveyed directly to customers as reclaimed water, with the remainder of the treated water being discharged into Mary’s Creek. 

The treated water from Mary’s Creek will meet the reclaimed water standards as well as stringent TCEQ discharge permit requirements.  Examples of reclaimed water use includes irrigation water for lawns, landscaping, or athletic fields, as well as commercial and/or industrial use.  The expanded use of reclaimed water is a critical part of Fort Worth’s future water supply.

TCEQ Permitting Process

Location map

map showing location of the planned Mary's Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Worth

History

History

A Mary's Creek facility has been discussed for more than two decades. Numerous studies commissioned by different entities have explored the wastewater needs for eastern Parker and western Tarrant counties, including a feasibility study.

2009 to 2010 – Fort Worth conducted a site selection study for a future facility in the Mary’s Creek basin. The process included a customer advisory committee and several opportunities for community engagement. The result was the selection of three potential sites.

2011 – Fort Worth purchased a 100-acre site along Chapin Road that is across Mary’s Creek from the Waste Management landfill.

2017 – Fort Worth begins preparing permit application

March 23, 2018 – Fort Worth files Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) permit application with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; request interim discharge limit of 10 million gallons per day and a final limit of 15 MGD

May 18, 2018  – TCEQ informed the city the application is administratively complete, and it was beginning its technical review of the application.

March 16, 2020 – TCEQ issued final draft permit for Mary’s Creek WRF

Oct. 5, 2020 – TCEQ holds public meeting to receive comments on draft permit.

July, 23, 2021 – TCEQ released Decision of the Executive Director that the permit application meets the requirements of all applicable laws. The decision letter explains the process and requirements for requesting a contested case hearing or requesting reconsideration of the executive director's decision.

Read Executive Director's Decision(PDF, 3MB)

Read Executive Director's Response to Public Comments(PDF, 15MB)

Sept. 24, 2021 – TCEQ notified interested parties it set the Nov. 3 docket for the commissioners to consider all timely requests for a contested case hearing and reconsideration of its draft permit decision. 

Notice that docket item is set(PDF, 132KB)

TCEQ Executive Director's response to requests for a contested case hearing(PDF, 3MB)

Public Interest Counsel's response to requests for a contested case hearing and response to requests for reconsideration(PDF, 13MB)

Nov. 3, 2021 – TCEQ Commissioners granted affected party status to Martha Leonard and deferred the decision on TRWD’s status as an affected party to the State Office of Hearing Administrators. Referred contested case hearing to SOAH with specific issues for consideration in the hearing, and referred matter to the TCEQ Alternative Dispute Resolution Program, concurrent with SOAH scheduling process.

Read the commission's interim order outlining its decisions.(PDF, 170KB)

Feb. 28, 2022 – State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) held preliminary hearing on draft permit, heard testimony and granted affected party status to Tarrant Regional Water District.

March 8, 2022 – Administrative law judge issues Order No. 1, which memorializes the preliminary hearing, orders both parties to confer on the procedural schedule and sets a hearing on the merits. Read order...(PDF, 197KB)

March 14, 2022 – Administrative law judge issues Order No. 2.Read order…(PDF, 174KB)

March 25, 2022 – Administrative law judge issues Order No. 3. Read order…(PDF, 174KB)

March 21 and March 30, 2022 – Mediation held with Martha Leonard, TWRD and City of Fort Worth; resulted in negotiated settlement agreement pending final approval by the parties.

April 4, 2022 – Administrative law judge issues Order No. 4. Read order…(PDF, 171KB)

May 6, 2022 – Administrative law judge issues Order No. 5. Read order…(PDF, 72KB)

May 13, 2022 – Fort Worth, Tarrant Regional Water District and Martha Leonard announce settlement agreement, clearing the way for TCEQ to issue a final permit for the facility. 

May 17, 2022 – TRWD Board of Directors to consider approving settlement agreement

May 24, 2022 – Fort Worth City Council to consider approving settlement agreement

 

Frequently asked questions

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.

 

Additional information