TCEQ: City of Magnolia has 30 days to improve wastewater quality after Oct. 31 notice of violation

The city of Magnolia worked to repair one of its wastewater treatment facilities in October.

The city of Magnolia worked to repair one of its wastewater treatment facilities in October.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation Oct. 31 to the city of Magnolia regarding its wastewater treatment facility at 30910 Nichols Sawmill Road, according to an investigation report from the TCEQ.

However, City Administrator Paul Mendes claimed Friday the city has already corrected the violation and improved its wastewater quality to comply with requirements set by the TCEQ.

TCEQ Media Relations Manager Andrea Morrow said Nov. 3 that the TCEQ has not received compliance documentation from the city in response to the notice of violation, although the city and TCEQ have worked to restore plant operations after Hurricane Harvey.

"All violations have already been corrected," Mendes said. "Right now, both plants are up and running very good. We're happy with the way they're performing."

Based on an Aug. 14 investigation by the TCEQ, the city’s facility failed to maintain compliance with the permitted limits of sewage discharged into a body of water. The TCEQ's investigation was prompted by two complaints in early August:

  • Aug. 1: "The complainant alleges that water in a creek is uncharacteristically smelly and is black. The creek is normally clear."

  • Aug. 4: "The complainant alleges a sickening sludge type odor from a wastewater treatment plant."

According to the TCEQ, the city must provide documentation within 30 days of the notice outlining what corrective action was taken and showing that compliance with TCEQ rules has been achieved.

Should the city fail to correct the violation within the 30-day time frame, the matter may be referred for formal enforcement, Morrow said. The notice alone does not impose a fine or penalty. Details regarding the enforcement process are available on the TCEQ's website.

According to an investigation report, TCEQ representatives visited the Magnolia wastewater facility on Aug. 14, collected samples of discharged wastewater at various locations along Mink and Arnold branch creeks and performed odor surveys in the area.

"Evidence of untreated water was observed during the investigation and confirmed by the sample results," the report said. "The odor was not noted on-site of the complainant's property, but it was persistent and increasing in strength along the creek the closer you came to the city of Magnolia's [wastewater treatment facility]. Therefore, the allegations of both complaints were confirmed."

The city of Magnolia's plant discharges wastewater into Arnold Branch Creek, which flows into Mink Branch Creek—a discharge point for the Clovercreek Municipal Utility District, according to the TCEQ. A separate investigation was conducted for the MUD, according to the Aug. 14 investigation report.

Mendes said one of the city's wastewater plants was down for repairs in August during the time the samples were taken.

"What was going on at that time, we had one plant that was down, and [TCEQ] knew it," he said. "We were running the entire city on one plant, and you can only do so much when one plant is handling everything instead of just half. And they were aware of it, but they had to write up the letter."

The city's second plant was then down for repairs after Hurricane Harvey hit the region in late August. Complications from Harvey caused an odor to build up, Mendes said previously.

However, both plants are now operating fully, Mendes said Friday.

"The only thing you can do when you get to a situation like that, if you don't put everything on one plant, you have to start segmenting part of the community where you turn water off so we don't develop so much sewage," he said.

According to the TCEQ database, the TCEQ last issued a notice of violation to Magnolia in September 2014 for a similar allegation, which was resolved.

View a copy of the Oct. 31 notice of violation and Aug. 14 investigation report below.

By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball/Magnolia & Conroe/Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.