Neighbors concerned about latest site considered for west Fort Worth sewage plant

The city of Fort Worth's decision to push forward on a possible "compromise" site for the Mary's Creek Water Recycling Center was met by a lukewarm embrace -- at best -- from potential neighbors of the sewage plant.

The city last week authorized further assessment of "Site 10," at the north end of the creek, near the Waste Management landfill.

To the residents along the 14-mile stretch of Mary's Creek, the site is merely the lesser of three evils, the finalists out of 14 sites originally considered on the far west side.

"We don't believe Mary's Creek basin is an appropriate place," said Amy Reed, president of the Chapin Road and Alemeda Street Neighborhood Association and a member of Citizens Opposing Mary's Creek Sewage Plant. "We do feel like it needs to be in an area that has the natural capability to handle flooding and erosion and not be in the middle of the neighborhood."

The citizens group doesn't want the plant in its neighborhood though there seems to be consensus among the group that Site 10 is better than Sites 2 and 4.

The city will now conduct a study, to include an environmental impact evaluation, which will cost a little more than $500,000.

City officials and residents agree that flooding seems to be a problem along the creek already. Dumping recycled water from the sewage plant into the creek will only exacerbate the probability of high water, neighbors say.

Judy Williams, the chairwoman of the coalition, whose property is on the creek, said erosion from flooding over the years has already taken a toll.

She said she has lost four trees along the banks over the past seven years. That land loss, she said, makes her property and her neighbors' all the more vulnerable to flooding.

The city is in the midst of a storm-water study of the area that will run concurrently with the environmental impact study of the site. Reed believes that the studies will show that Mary's Creek cannot handle additional flow.

The water department has said that increased flow would add an eighth of an inch to the creek.

Residents opposed to the Mary's Creek site said they understand that the city needs another sewage plant and improved infrastructure to handle dramatic growth on the west side, with even more growth forecast.

In the spring, Mayor Mike Moncrief was receptive to a request by Benbrook Mayor Jerry Dittrich that Fort Worth consider sites other than the two -- Sites 2 and 4 -- closest to Benbrook.

Village Creek, built in the 1950s, is the city's only wastewater treatment plant. Far north Fort Worth is served by the Trinity River Authority's Denton Creek plant. Treatment facilities reclaim water used in waste disposal and make it usable again.

Under preliminary plans, Mary's Creek would be a waterway to the Trinity for the reclaimed water from the plant. However, Mary Gugliuzza, a spokeswoman for the water department, said it's not a foregone conclusion that the discharge would go into Mary's Creek if one of the three sites is selected. That's what the studies are all about.

Gugliuzza also played down concerns that bacteria or other pathogens would seep into the water. The water department's obligation -- whether it be drinking water or wastewater -- is promoting public health, she said.

"Discharges are highly regulated," Gugliuzza said, referring to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's oversight of standards set by the EPA. "The water we're putting into the Trinity River is better than the water that's already there."

Wherever it winds up, the plant, estimated to cost $50 million to $60 million, isn't expected to be operational until 2025. The city, however, intends to buy land for it next year.

"We think Site 10 is better than 2 and 4," said Williams, but "we still wish the facility would be out farther west. I think there are other choices because they looked at other sites farther west."