February 4, 2014

Arlington’s residential irrigation inspection project aims to protect drinking water

The state environmental agency agrees to let the city of Arlington offer free inspection and repairs on residential irrigation backflow prevention devices instead of paying a $13,125 administrative fee for a 2012 state water code violation.

As part of an agreement with the state, Arlington will offer a limited number of residents free inspection and repair of their irrigation systems to prevent contaminants from entering the public drinking water system.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality agreed last month to let the city launch the project instead of paying a $13,125 administrative fee for a state water code violation.

On Dec. 3, 2012, about 43,200 gallons of wastewater overflowed from a manhole near Cooper Street and Nedderman Drive, according to the state. The wastewater flowed into a nearby creek and pond on the University of Texas at Arlington campus and killed more than 2,600 fish.

Within four days, Arlington had repaired a blocked sewer line, removed the dead fish, pumped the wastewater back into the collection system and treated the water until testing showed pollution levels were acceptable, according to the state.

Under the agreement with TCEQ, Arlington will hire a contractor to inspect the backflow prevention devices on residential irrigation systems and to repair or replace assemblies that are not working correctly at no cost to the residents. Arlington has set aside $14,500 for the project, which must be completed within one year.

Residents with irrigation systems who are interested in the free inspection and assembly repairs are asked to contact Arlington Water Utilities. Joe Gildersleeve, water resource services manager, said the city will help as many residents as possible until the money is gone.

Properly working backflow prevention assemblies are important because they keep contaminated water in the irrigation system from flowing back into the main water line carrying clean drinking water, Gildersleeve said.

“Fertilizer can pool around [sprinkler] heads. There are various things that can potentially get into the system, such as fecal matter from dog waste,” Gildersleeve said. “It’s important to make sure the public drinking water is protected from that.”

Arlington has one year to complete its project. The agreed order with TCEQ states that the city’s failure to comply could have consequences, including additional penalties, greater scrutiny of permit applications or increased penalties for future violations.

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