Anyone driving along Loop 256 E. lately might have picked up a whiff of something not too pleasant in the cool November air.
The Herald-Press has recently received a few phone calls from people who have driven by the area and encountered a foul smell.
City Utilities Director Robert Sedgwick said the source of the foul odor has been found and is being fixed. He attributed the foul odor to a broken sewer line, which was located Tuesday following a thorough search of the area.
“Our guys went out looking last night and walked all the creeks looking,” Sedgwick said Tuesday. “Then they stopped and regrouped and found it this morning.”
Workers found the culprit of the unpleasant odor in the Town Creek line, a 10-inch wide main sewer pipe that had separated.
Engineering technician Brett Jameson said the separation occurred 682 feet from the center of Gillespie along the Loop, which tracks a downhill slope.
“We have a sewer line that has backed up and overflowed,” Sedgwick said, which he added may have done so “because somebody stacked a bunch of concrete riffraff on top.”
The exact cause of the separation, however, is undetermined at this time. Jameson suggested it could be due to the age of the line.
“The line split is what happened, and since there are so many creeks in this town, it ran down the creek, along the same creek that the interceptor runs,” Jameson explained.
Main distribution lines carry wastewater from residential and commercial buildings to larger connecting interceptor lines that eventually lead to a treatment plant, where contaminants can be removed. Jameson said the city employs 250 miles of sanitary sewer lines. Some lines flow from gravity — like the one along the Loop — while others undergo pressure from one of 26 lift stations that pump directly into the larger interceptor lines.
Sedgwick said he had every available worker on the project to get the line fixed and the air back to normal. The repair process includes removing the riffraff from the top and sides of the line.
“Then when we get all that done, downstream from that, we'll dam up that creek and pump that water back into our sewer line.” Workers will then chlorinate and disinfect the water, Sedgwick said, “to make sure we have as little effect on the environment as possible.”
Odors can be a problem though, particularly this time of year.
“There's a certain time in the season when a low pressure comes in and holds the odor down close to the ground,” Sedgwick said.
Jameson compared it to fog.
“Fog stays low to the ground,” he said. “Cooler temperature brings in fog”— which holds the smell.
“This break will be submitted to TCEQ (The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) for their records, and we will address the methods of clean-up and the amount of sewer that has bypassed into the creek,” Jameson said. “We've got this under control.”