Council holds off on making nitrogen decision for Wastewater Treatment Plant

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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During its work session Monday night following the regular meeting, the Austin City Council voted to hold off making any decision on addressing nitrogen levels coming out of the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Austin.

The subject was discussed ahead of future decisions by the state that would cap the level of nitrogen coming out of places like Austin’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. City Engineer Steven Lang said the decision comes down to spending the money now to get ahead of any cap set by the state or wait to see what that cap is before making any decisions.

Lang said that the cap could be as low as 10 milligrams per liter, way below what Austin is putting out now at 93 milligrams.

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Had the city decided to move ahead, then recycle piping and pumps would be added to the current $105 million renovation projects, which is in the early stages, at a cost of between $600,000 and $750,000.

The project is currently making efforts to reduce nitrogen output to 71 milligrams per liter, with further efforts in the coming years dropping it more.

The addition of the recycling pipes and pumps could help reduce that number to 22 milligrams per liter with a potential carbon source option bringing it down to 16 milligrams per liter.

However, Lang also pointed out that the pipes and pumps generally have life spans of 10 years, which means that equipment would need to be replaced before the limit would be reached, adding more costs to the project.