Tuesday, 11/8/2020 | : : UTC-5
Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Harker Heights to face possible fines for sewage leak

Sara Escobar

Evening Star

In December, the bacteria levels in Trimmier Creek were reportedly 1,000 times the level considered safe for human contact; this comes as a result of a raw sewage leak that also may have led to a massive die-off of fish that occurred in the area. Some of the fish killed include sunfish, white bass, and catfish. Heights Public Work officials are currently denying any connection between the sewage discharge and the die-off of fish. According to a spokesperson from the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality, water samples taken from the body of water returned E. coli levels that far exceeded Environmental Protection Agency Standards. TCEQ is currently conducting its own private investigation into the sewage leak, which allegedly stems from an obstruction in the city’s wastewater system, causing raw sewage to exit a manhole and enter the creek.

Residents in the area reported a foul odor permeating from a section of Trimmier Creek in late December. Evidence of human waste and other sewage was also reported along the creek’s banks. Trimmier Creek often serves as a place of solitude for its residents—as they often fish or swim in the area. Now, many residents in the area are staying far away from it, and advising their children to do the same. The body of water is a side channel of the Stillhouse Hollow Lake, a reservoir that provides drinking water for thousands of residents. The large water supply is also set to provide drinking water to Killeen in 2018.

As of yet, there has been no formal notice from the city or any other source to avoid the water, despite the dangerously high level of bacteria. The business of notifying the public should fall on the city—but Director of Public Works, Mark Hyde, told the press in a previous interview that they had received no instruction to notify the public of the potential hazard. “We’ve been working closely with TCEQ; we’ve been very cooperative in doing everything TCEQ has asked for.” Hyde said.

There are many types of E. coli, and most of them are harmless. Some strains even live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. However, some forms can be detrimental and even lethal. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some symptoms of E. coli include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. CDC also states that each year, E. coli causes an estimated 96,000 illnesses, 3,200 hospitalizations, and 31 deaths. This can add up to over $400 million in annual healthcare expenses. Currently, there have been no reported outbreaks or illnesses directly linked to the sewage leak at Trimmier Creek.

Another spokesperson with TCEQ said that Mayor Rob Robinson’s office was issued a notice of enforcement for the violation, stating that this process typically results in a fine or penalty.

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