AUSTIN, Texas — There are a lot of dead fish in Brushy Creek, and officials said a sewage release from a wastewater treatment plant is to blame.

At 3 p.m. on Monday, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Kills and Spills Team, along with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), were notified of a fish kill in Brushy Creek near Round Rock.

"If you come out here, you’re probably going to see some dead fish out here at the road crossings," said Travis Tidwell, with TPWD. "You’re probably going to smell them. I wouldn’t touch them or play around with them."

After conducting an on-site investigation, TPWD said staff determined the fish kill was caused by a sewage release from the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant East. TCEQ said the release was an unauthorized discharge from a manhole at the plant.

The City of Round Rock said Tuesday that at 8:10 p.m. on Sunday, the wastewater treatment plant experienced a power failure at an influent lift station, causing more than 100,000 gallons of untreated wastewater to leak into Brushy Creek. The overflow occurred at a manhole just outside a fence near the southeast corner of the plant, which is south of U.S. 79 and west of Red Bud Lane.

The City of Round Rock said the leak was stopped at 9:40 p.m. Sunday and clean-up started Monday morning.

The City said the overflow has not affected the public drinking water supply.

Dead fish
Photo by KVUE's Molly Oak.
Molly Oak

Kills and Spills Team biologists are continuing their investigation and currently estimate at least several thousand game and non-game fish have been affected, including bass, catfish, sunfish and minnows. TCEQ also has an ongoing investigation into the incident.

Affected areas include portions of the creek from the wastewater treatment plant east of Round Rock downstream through Hutto.

"I tell people that if you hear there’s been sewage released into a creek, stay away from it for a couple of days," said Tidwell. "We’ve also had some heavy rainfall in this area the past day or so. You typically don’t want to be in the water after a heavy rainfall event anyway because of everything that washes down into it, so just wait a few days if you like to fish in this stretch or wade around or play with your dog.”


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Dead fish
Photo by KVUE's Molly Oak.
Molly Oak

The City of Round Rock said it is making operational changes at the wastewater treatment plant.

Michael Thane, director of operations at the City, said the wastewater plant that failed is quite old and the City plans to replace it. 

"The plant's going to be expanded next year," Thane said. "We have a construction contract to expand the plant. Part of that expansion was to replace some of this equipment that failed us."

The director adds they are going to man the plant 24/7, so if there is another failure before construction starts in a year, they can respond more quickly.

Four cities send wastewater to the plant: Round Rock, Austin, Cedar Park and Leander.

Round Rock did not start operating it until last October.

Again, this did not affect drinking water. However, the City said it is taking samples of groundwater wells near the spill site out of precaution.

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