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COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – The weekend rain and storms caused a wide range of damage across North Texas. In Collin County, a lightning strike on a power supply caused a water station to spill more than 650,000 gallons of raw sewage into Spring Creek — a tributary of Lake Ray Hubbard.
The overflow happened upstream of the North Texas Municipal Water District’s (NTMWD) Plano Spring Creek No. 2 Lift Station, in the 400 block of Accent Drive. When the raw sewage running through pipelines gets to a low point and needs to make its way over a hill, it relies on lift stations to elevate it over the high point.
By Monday there was little sign of the sewage spill that was flowing out of a manhole.
Officials with NTMWD say this type of a spill is highly unusual for a lift station, and has only happened one other time in the last 15 years. The spills are mostly averted because each station has a backup power supply. But this weekend’s lightning strike was so powerful, it knocked out both the primary and secondary power systems.
The power outage automatically sent an alert to the NTMWD and crews were able to restore power and stop the spill within three hours.
Spring Creek runs from Collin County south to Dallas, and along the way people like Mike Nielsen enjoy jogging trails and scenic waterfront areas. “I am concerned,” he said.
The NTMWD is urging everyone not to be alarmed by the amount of wastewater that was released. A spokesperson says lab test results have not identified any potential environmental or health concerns.
But the situation still has Nielson worried. “Will water dilute that much though, raw sewage?” he asked. “I mean 667,000 gallons worth of raw sewage, that would take a lot of water to dilute that much sewage I would think.”
Nielsen is right, but Denise Hickey, the public relations coordinator for the NTMWD, says the same storm that caused the power outage also helped solve the problem.
“With the rain event it’s not surprising,” she explained. “Because you have the additional rain flow and the water coming down the creek that helps dilute, if you will, that wastewater flow.”
With Spring Creek being a tributary it was especially important that the spill be diluted. Hickey said, Dallas’ intake at Lake Ray Hubbard is at the farthest most point in Lake Ray Hubbard, so you have that continual benefit of being in the environment.”
MTMWD officials say the travel distance to the lake, the amount of total water encountered along the way, and the rainfall at the time of the spill all worked to dilute the wastewater.
The water district performed two sets of tests Saturday and another round Monday afternoon. Hickey said all results were within normal thresholds and insists the water supply is safe.
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