In early February, an electrical short led a South Austin wastewater lift station to spill 90,140 gallons of raw sewage into a small waterway.
Austin Water Utility workers hustled successfully to contain the spill at the Southland Oaks lift station, near Brodie Lane and Frate Barker Road, before it reached the larger Bear Creek.
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An uphill battle
Lift-station overflows continue even as pipes stay stable. Some of the sewage overflows in the past several years are due chiefly to one-time events at some of the city’s roughly 120 lift-stations, which are often needed to move sewage uphill.
In June 2012, for example, the Springfield lift station in Southeast Austin foundered after a buildup of grease fouled pump controls. Just over a million gallons of sewage overflowed. A tropical storm in September2010 dumped so much rainwater into city drains that three wastewater lift-stations were overwhelmed with flooding, leading to more than 430,000 gallons of sewage overflows.
The lift-stations “are mechanical in nature,” said Jason Hill, a spokesman for Austin Water Utility. “So there’s a greater potential for failing.”