State fines Angleton wastewater plant

By Velda Hunter
The Facts

Published April 08, 2004

ANGLETON — The city of Angleton has been fined $5,250 by the state after levels of ammonia nitrogen, zinc and suspended solids exceeded what is allowed at the wastewater treatment plant.

The higher-than-permitted levels were recorded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in March 2003 and May 2003 when the wastewater treatment plant was run by USFilter, said City Administrator Michael Stoldt.

The city received notice of the violations in October, and were notified of the fines Tuesday afternoon.

The violations were deemed minor by the state.

Glenn Greenwood, a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesman, said the violations did not pose a health threat.

“It’s disturbing,” said Angleton Mayor Matt Sebesta of the violation and fine. But he said the city and its consultant, Severn Trent, have corrected some of the problems since they took over operations about three months ago.

The state claims the daily average of total suspended solids, or solid matter floating in water, was 22 mg per liter when it shouldn’t have been higher than 15 mg per liter, Stoldt said. The solid matter was discharged from the city’s wastewater treatment plant to Oyster Creek. The pollutants were not high enough to harm human health or the environment, according to the state.

Ammonia nitrogen, also discharged from the facility, exceeded the 3 mg per liter daily maximum last March when it reached 5 mg per liter and again in May when it reached 4 mg per liter.

Zinc, found in sludge put in soil behind the plant, surpassed the maximum daily allowed by the state’s 7 mg per liter daily maximum when it reached 11 mg per liter last March and 12 mg per liter last May, Stoldt said.

Stoldt was reluctant to speak about how the violations occurred given the city’s relationship with USFilter. The city terminated its contract with the company in January and took over the plant along with street maintenance for the first time since 1996.

The city contends USFilter breached its contract by not hiring enough employees to run the plants and maintain streets, not submitting annual capital project reports and improperly charging expenses to the maintenance and repair budget.

Christie Kaluza, a USFilter spokeswoman, was not aware of the fine and was unable to respond to the violations Wednesday.

The city already has taken steps to correct the problem.

“Since we’ve been in there, we try to keep our sludge level much lower,” Stoldt said. When the contract with USFilter was terminated, Stoldt said the city was aware of ammonia problems and adjustments were made.

“It ended up being a fairly simple solution,” he said.

City Council and the city attorney will discuss the issue.

“Even though they (USFilter) operated the plant, it was still our plant and ultimately, we are responsible,” Stoldt said.

Velda Hunter covers Angleton for The Facts. Contact her at (979) 849-8581.