ROUND ROCK, Texas - At least several thousand fish are dead in Brushy Creek, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists. Catfish, Bass, Sunfish, Minnows...
"Yeah it's not good," said Josh Smitherman who works for Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock. "It's definitely going to make us pick and choose where we're guiding. That was a section that we could take clients and catch fish. But now we're having to go upstream a bit which is fine there's plenty of fish there too. But it's a shame," Smitherman said
The affected area stretches from the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Round Rock, downstream to Hutto. So what happened? A power outage at the plant Sunday night.
"There's a big pipe underground right here. That's bringing wastewater in from the north, northeast part of Round Rock. It comes over here to this manhole and this is where the wastewater was spilled," said Michael Thane, Director of Utilities for the City of Round Rock.
He says the city took over operational duties at the Brushy Creek plant last October. It's regional so Round Rock, Austin, Cedar Park and Leander send wastewater there.
"Normally the waste comes from here and it goes up here into the wastewater treatment plant where it's treated. The event occurred because we lost power and the plant filled up with wastewater. It forced wastewater out of this manhole cover. When it came out of this cover then it over-spilled," he said, pointing to the manhole where the spill occurred.
The overflow was stopped by 9:40 Sunday night. After causing more than 100,000 gallons of untreated wastewater to leak into Brushy Creek. "It was reported by a fisherman downstream, they called the TCEQ and said ‘There's dead fish,' we met with the TCEQ at the site," Thane said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is investigating, along with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Meanwhile, Round Rock has been cleaning up. "We've also walked the creek. We did it on Tuesday, we did it again this morning just to make sure for about a half a mile downstream, make sure there's any debris or anything in the creek that we caused or any dead fish we made sure we cleaned that up," Thane said.
Thane says there's already a planned expansion for the facility in the works. They'll be replacing a lot of the old electrical equipment. "If the backup power would have worked like it was supposed to and not failed us then this wouldn't have occurred. Because it would have kicked in," Thane said.
And they'll make sure the night shift is covered. "I think if you have a person here 24-7 just as a safety factor something like this happens, they're at the site and we can react quicker," Thane said.
The city says the overflow has not affected the public drinking water supply.
Thane says the chances of the overflow affected wells is slim. "We have had people inquire about their wells along the creek, and we've offered to test their wells for them," he said.
The City of Round Rock also says if you see dead fish anywhere along the creek, call the city to come take care of it. Texas Parks and Wildlife says you can call them as well.