New Braunfels Utilities has responded by committing to a number of infrastructure upgrades in the area, including the ongoing construction of a new $50.1 million water-reclamation facility, or wastewater treatment plant, near the intersection of Loop 337 and Gruene Road.
Once complete, the new plant will increase NBU’s treatment capacity from 1.1 million gallons per day at its current Gruene Road facility to up to 2.5 million gallons per day.
The increase in capacity will allow the new facility to serve as many as 25,000 customers per day, up from 11,000 customers per day at the current Gruene Road plant, according to Brent Lundmark, NBU water treatment and compliance manager.
“We want to move that [Gruene Road] facility out of the flood plain for one, and then we also need to increase the treatment capacity so we can serve more customers as the area grows,” Lundmark said. “We’re pretty much at capacity right now.”
The current Gruene Road facility is one of four wastewater treatment plants NBU operates in New Braunfels, along with North and South Kuehler plants near Camp Comal and the Mackenzie Treatment Plant along Hwy. 46 near Avery Park.
The next treatment plants to be upgraded following current construction, North and South Kuehler, will increase capacity from 7 million to more than 9 million gallons per day, and the Mackenzie plant, in service since 2017, will eventually treat up to 2.5 million gallons per day, Lundmark said.
Meanwhile, the Gruene Road plant has the lowest treatment capacity of the four plants currently in service, according to NBU officials. It also remains NBU’s only wastewater treatment plant not built to current Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations on flood plains, Lundmark said.
“It has flooded out three times in the past 30 years it has been in operation,” Lundmark said. “Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations prevent adding onto a plant in the flood plain or new construction in the flood plain, so we’re not even able to add onto that plant anyway.”
In addition to an increase in treatment capacity and the mitigation of flood risks, the new wastewater treatment plant at Gruene Road and Loop 337 will feature a number of technological upgrades from previous plants.
The new plant will have an encased headworks building to reduce odor when sewage first enters the plant, and it will specialize in the treatment of phosphorus, a part of the treatment process that is not possible at the current Gruene Road plant.
The new Loop 337/Gruene Road facility will also utilize a gravity-operated lift station near Lakeview Drive and River Road that will transfer wastewater through a sanitary sewer on Torrey Road into the new facility.
In addition, NBU has continued to take population growth into account by designing the new Loop 337 and Gruene Road plant with a possible expansion in mind in the near future.
“We build these plants, but then we also have to expand plants,” NBU Chief Operations Officer Ryan Kelso said. “Whenever our plant becomes 90% loaded we have to begin construction of an expansion. We will bring this plant online in the fall of 2020, but within four to five years we will probably begin construction of the expansion, which will double the size of this plant.”