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Flushed T-shirts stop up Cottonwood Shores wastewater system

lift station No. 3 in Cottonwood Shores

A diesel engine has been hooked up to wastewater lift station No. 3 in Cottonwood Shores to ensure it continues to operate. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

T-shirts and other cloth items being flushed into the Cottonwood Shores wastewater system are causing major problems at the city’s lift stations. Currently, a diesel generator is hooked up to lift station No. 3 to help pump wastewater to Horseshoe Bay for treatment. Noise from the diesel engine is disrupting the neighborhood, but the issue should be taken care of by the end of next week, City Administrator J.C. Hughes said. 

Improving infrastructure led the discussion and action at the Cottonwood Shores City Council’s regular meeting Thursday, Nov. 18. 

A call for bids to build a fifth lift station will go out soon. Lift station No. 5 will replace lift station No. 3 as the central pumping point to Horseshoe Bay. The city contracts with Horseshoe Bay to treat its wastewater. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality just approved the engineering design for lift station No. 5, which should go online in 12 months.

In the meantime, work is underway to fix stopped-up check valves on lift station No. 3. Because of its importance, the lift station has to keep running, which is where the generator came in.

“(The engine) is loud and it’s going away in the next 7-10 days,” Hughes said. “It gives us the opportunity to do repairs so we don’t have this issue again. The noise is a necessary evil so we don’t have backups.”

Wear and tear is part of why the lift station is struggling. Over the past year, the Cottonwood Shores system has struggled because of an increase in rags, T-shirts, and towels being flushed down toilets.

“We have grinder pumps that chop up smaller products,” Hughes said. “We can’t grind up T-shirts and rags. Over the last year, it came all of the sudden that we’ve gotten overwhelmed with these products.”

Lift station No. 5 will have chopper pumps to take care of that kind of problem. Cottonwood Shores also will begin replacing the horsepower engines on lift stations 1, 2, and 4 with double the engine power. By this time next year, each lift station should have two 5-horsepower engines. 

“If the first pump gets overwhelmed, the other one kicks in,” Hughes said. “If we have a pump go out, the other one kicks in.” 

In other infrastructure business, councilors approved spending $16,000 to construct a building to enclose the two main raw pumps at the water treatment plant. The contract will go to Texas Building Center in Kingsland. Money will come from the infrastructure improvement funds.

“This building will protect the two raw-water pumps that pump water from our holding quarry into the treatment plant,” Hughes said. “That’s the reason the pumps are so critical. This will make sure critical pumps and electrical aren’t out in the weather.”

Councilors also approved $10,084.62 for a new computer server to replace one that’s been in use since 2015. The new server has double the capability functions of the old one. City staff noted it was getting more difficult to get tech support for the old server because of the outdated software. The money will come from the administrative, water utilities, and police department budgets with each paying one-third of the costs. 

jfierro@thepicayune.com