Doug Hearn of Hearn Engineering, Inc. presented an outline to the Brownwood City Council Tuesday regarding the process and technology which will be presented to TCEQ on Thursday. The engineer and staff encouraged questions from the council as well as the public.
Hearn explained that currently, wastewater is treated and disinfected before it is released downstream and is near drinking water quality standards. According to Hearn, this waste water effluent will be taken from the plant and treated with processes of microfiltration, ultraviolet disinfection, reverse osmosis, carbon adsorption and chloramine disinfection to remove any contaminants including microscopic particles, viruses, and even particles on a molecular level, such as salt. The equipment and processes used are proven and have been used in the industry for years according to both Hearn and David Harris, the city's director of public works.
The reverse osmosis plant will process approximately 1.5 million gallons of drinking quality water to be added to Brownwood's dwindling water supply.
According to Hearn, the main obstacle is getting past TCEQ's standard 10 month pilot test which requires the city to build a smaller test plant before the permanent plant design can be approved. With the lake level so low now due to drought conditions, Hearn stated that time is of the essence.
"If there is only 24 months of water left in the lake, we need to start recycling now, trying to get approval without a pilot test," said Hearn. "They (TCEQ) are worried about raw water. What we are using is disinfected water."
Hearn explained that the 10 month pilot test is required because new water plants are typically built to use raw water as mentioned above and that TCEQ has never had an application for building a plant that utilizes wastewater that is as clean as what Brownwood's effluent is currently.
Officials hope that the commission can look past the usual protocol and move forward while Brownwood still has an ample water supply in Lake Brownwood for recycling, according to Hearn and Harris.
Harris added that the 10 month pilot test is not needed because the city has effluent water sample data that dates back to 1993 from the treatment plant.
"We could go downstream from the wastewater treatment plant and put that same water through a conventional plant and TCEQ would not say a thing," said Hearn. "That water is more unpredictable and dirtier than what we will be using. We're running our reverse osmosis--exceeding the standards, because everyone is concerned."
Hearn explained the strategy for Thursday's meeting and hopes to make progress in the process.
"Our position is that this is not the primary water supply, it is a supplemental water source or system. We are trying to augment the city's water supply not replace it, so that is the other reason TCEQ likes to see these pilot tests," explained Hearn. "We are working through a procedure to see how we get from here to turning on the tap. Quite honestly, we need to have this designed built and online by this time next year."