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Sanitary system upgrades are coming to Houston

Houston agreed to repair or replace at least 150 miles of sanitary sewer pipe each year and install 2,500 manhole covers in the next five years under a $2 billion consent decree approved recently by the city council.

The reasoning: hundreds of sewage spills from broken or overwhelmed pipes each year. The agreement with the EPA requires Houston to more aggressively inspect, clean replace or upgrade its sanitary sewer pipes, lift stations and treatment plants throughout the next 15 years.

There are also nine areas throughout the city that need to be addressed due to enormous sewage spills during rainstorms.

While the agreement is positive, there is a negative: additional water rate hikes beginning next year.

Per the local news, “the consent decree dictates how the city must reduce spills across its more than 6,200 miles of sewers, and details project Houston must tackle in the first few years at its larger facilities, including 384 lift stations and 39 treatment plants.”

The decree also says that Houston’s entire sewer system must be inspected each decade.

The citywide inspections are meant to help the city choose which items to repair first. Each year, the city is forced to repair or replace about 150 miles of pipes and associated manholes along with 18 lift stations.

“The proposal also commits the city to:

  • come up with plans to reduce spills in nine areas where large spills occur during heavy rains, and to fix seven of them within a decade;
  • study, whether to install larger pipes anytime a pipe, is scheduled for repair or replacement, and in any area where more than three spills or any spills topping 100,000 gallons were reported in the prior three years;
  • expand the number of “smart manholes” — which track rising water levels in the pipes to flag blockages — from 300 to 3,000 within 5 years;
  • continue its program of educating the public not to pour oil, fats, and grease down the drain.”

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