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Final design phase OK’d for Marble Falls wastewater treatment plant

Marble Falls wastewater treatment plant design plans

Design plans for a new wastewater treatment plant shown at the Marble Falls City Council's regular meeting July 19. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Marble Falls City Council approved the final design phase for a new wastewater treatment plant during its regular meeting Tuesday, July 19.

City Manager Mike Hodge brought the item forward.

“I have taken over as the city’s project manager on this project,” Hodge said. “We’re at the point now where we need to move to the final phase of the design.”

Robert Adams of Plummer Associates, an Austin-based firm involved with the project, updated councilors on the plant’s design process. 

“This is probably the largest infrastructure project the city of Marble Falls has ever undertaken,” Adams said. The overall cost of the new plant will total about $60 million.

The final design phase will include additional design and engineering services along with equipment preselection and the negotiation of a guaranteed maximum price.

Another point of discussion is the permitting process the plant will go through before becoming fully functional. The plant will use the same technology as the Navy, NASA, cruise ships, and other cities around the world to turn effluent water into potable water. This technology, known as direct potable reuse, is new to Texas. Because of that, the plant must undertake a long and costly testing process before it is able to use the technology. 

The overall cost of the permitting process of the new plant will be about $5 million and could take up to two years.

Councilor Dave Rhodes disagreed strongly with the process.

“From a political standpoint, this is extortion on the part of (the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality),” he said. “They are essentially forcing us to spend $5 million while they get happy when the technology already exists.” 

The TCEQ regulates public water treatment facilities. 

Marble Falls’ existing treatment plant, built in 1954, reached a capacity of 75 percent for three months in a row, forcing the city to increase its capacity or build a new plant due to a TCEQ requirement.

While the plant has been upgraded over the years, it is well past its lifespan. Additionally, the plant, located near Johnson Park, is in a floodplain, leading to near catastrophe during the 2018 flood. The city decided to move forward on plans to build a new plant in April 2021.

The new plant, which will be built on a 49-acre piece of land behind Walmart, will have a capacity of 3 million gallons per day, double that of the existing plant. It also will have the capability of being upgraded to 4.5 million gallons per day. 

The next regular meeting of the Marble Falls City Council is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 800 Third St.