San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


VIDEO: San Marcos City Manager JIM NUSE talks about the spill that sent an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into the upper San Marcos River the evening of May 29.


12:31 p.m. THURSDAY, MAY 30: Both southbound lanes of C.M. Allen Parkway at University Drive are closed today as contractors patch up a wastewater system failure that caused as many as 15,000 gallons of untreated sewage to spill into the San Marcos River on Wednesday.

A collapsed service line caused a manhole at University Drive and C.M. Allen Parkway to clog around 6 p.m. Wednesday, causing a wastewater backup and spill on Sessom Drive. Untreated wastewater flowed into the river for two hours until crews could locate the blockage and stop the spill, city spokesperson Melissa Millecam said in a statement issued early this afternoon.

City water quality technicians took samples Wednesday evening at four locations downstream of the spill to test for high levels of bacteria but the results are not expected until tomorrow. Nevertheless, city health officials say the sewage was diluted enough by the rain-swollen river that there was no reason to close part of the river downstream of the spill, Millecam said.

Workers will complete a temporary fix to the collapsed wastewater line today and expect to reopen C.M. Allen tomorrow. The southbound lanes will be closed again early next week when workers go in to fix the problem permanently, Millecam said.

For information, call the city’s Engineering and Capital Improvements department at 512-393-8130.

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WEDNESDAY, MAY 29: City workers have contained a spill that sent diluted but otherwise untreated sewage streaming, then pouring, into the San Marcos River for about two hours this evening.

Untreated sewage backed up in a blocked sewer main  along University Drive this evening, sending gray water, diluted with rain, into the San Marcos River near Burleson’s Dam at Spring Lake. SAN MARCOS MERCURY PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS

Untreated sewage backed up in a blocked sewer main along University Drive this evening, sending gray water, diluted with rain, into the San Marcos River near Burleson’s Dam at Spring Lake. SAN MARCOS MERCURY PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS

San Marcos City Manager Jim Nuse said a blockage in a sewer main in the C.M. Allen and University Drive areas caused untreated wastewater, mixed with rainwater, to seep out of a manhole and run downhill into the river. Water appeared to enter the river adjacent to the Aquarena Springs bridge, about four-tenths of a mile from the location of a wastewater blockage.

Nuse said city staff currently thinks 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of untreated effluent entered the river, an estimate they have reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“It didn’t seem to be really highly concentrated but, regardless, any effluent into the river is something that is not good and that we want to get resolved as quickly as possible,” Nuse said.

Nuse said city workers — including utility crews, city engineers, inspectors, firefighters and police — had temporarily fixed the problem and would return tomorrow to permanently remove the blockage.

”It’s been buttoned up and we’re going home,” Nuse said shortly before 10 p.m.

The spill was noticed at about 6:25 p.m. Wednesday, San Marcos Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Bell said. Leakage into the river — initially in very small amounts — was contained in less than two hours using pumps, sandbags and absorbent buoys, Bell said.

“I don’t know what the longterm [outlook] is, but it’s stopped. The priority of this whole operation has been to stop the flow to the river and that has been done,” Bell said.

Earlier in the evening, at about 8:20 p.m., a reporter witnessed smelly, cloudy water gushing into the river through a stormwater channel just north of the Aquarena Springs bridge and south of Burleson’s Dam, the point where Spring Lake becomes the San Marcos River. The befouled water ran level with the curb at some places along Aquarena and Sessom and was calf-deep in the street as the reporter crossed Sessom Drive between Sewell Park and the main part of Texas State University’s campus.

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19 thoughts on “Updated: C.M. Allen lanes closed for sewage spill fix (video)

  1. And, the e.coli count is……please post the data

    10,000 to 15,000 gallons of untreated effluent

    Have cities downstream been notified? Use those League of Cities contacts on your iphones …

    Wow….put this on your list of arguments against developments, thank you again P&Z for your votes last night!!!

  2. Appears as if the reaction this time was good, if not excellent. Seems to me there should be some thought and action put into prevention and more reliable detection of sewage leaks into our pristine river. For me and for many others, this is not just our river. It belongs to the people who came before us and the people who are to come. We are but caretakers, and not very good ones at that.

  3. City should be posting water readings DAILY to begin with. Perhaps this is Mother Nature saying “take e.coli readings to protect the health of residents and tourists.” Key point: the construction in proximity to the river. Its horrific and not necessary. Its all purely cosmetic, i’ve had these conversations with COSM staff. And, right over GROUNDWATER and right around A PCE PLUME. They are placing equipment on top of the sensor wells to take readings of the PCE plume. Go figure the safety measures COSM is taking ….. NOT.

    Our P&Z made mention of the Hutchison project. God Bless the soul that made mention of that on Tuesday night, in terms of the deleterious effects which can be seen with the naked eye of this road construction ON THE RIVER. About to watch the video. Props to you Brad for catching footage and uploading it for the public to review.

    Please write or call COSM staff and elected officials to implement daily e.coli readings. If you had seen the readings i’ve seen in the 80s’ you’d be youtubing and not river tubing in San Marcos. MM yummy ear infections.

    Best Regards!

  4. I believe this is actually occurred at the intersection of SESSOM and University (Where Aquarena turns into University), not CM Allen as reported, with Saltgrass to the East and the Freeman Bldg to the West.

  5. The private contractor caused the issue. The direct cause….was indeed the construction downtown. The construction is not needed, it is ONLY for cosmetics. I just confirmed that COSM has NOT posted health warnings regarding the river. RAW SEWAGE.

  6. Accidents happen. We just have to hope that those responsible respond accordingly when they do.

    In the meantime, we can’t just let our downtown area sink into decay. It’s *very* debatable as to whether the downtown construction is “necessary”. Many – including me – feel that it is.

  7. According to COSM staff working on the project it is for cosmetics Danno. And, considering that no one knows about this issue, unless they read the Mercury, a health warning seems logical. Why not post something on the website and at the river entry points for the public? Was an e-mail sent out to Texas State students? Are you aware a chemical caused the problem. A chemical used by the contractor. Will that data be included with the e.coli readings? Im on the list to receive the data. If accidents happen, then i guess we should take that into account on the next P&Z line up of new developments near the river. And, these numbers are ESTIMATES. We now know the formula used and look forward to follow ups from COSM. The Clovis must be overturning in their graves how we enact “stewardship” in this community. And, of course this project comes out of your tax dollars. I see lots of need in this community, and quite frankly this project is low priority.

  8. Tracy,

    The wastewater was entering the river near the intersection of Sessom and Aquarena/University where you describe. The sewage overflowed and poured forth from a manhole between University and Sessom, in the area of the former fish hatchery. The wastewater line collapse was presumably near the point where the sewage overflowed but I’m not sure exactly where, I guess somewhere under C.M. Allen near University Drive since they’re having to dig up the southbound part of the road to fix the problem. Sewage entered the river through gravity-driven drainage facilities. At least that’s what I surmised from what the city is saying and what I saw at the scene.

  9. Here are more photos of the overflowing manhole cover. They were taken by Vincent Debrock before I arrived at the spill and took my video:

    sewage overflow debrock 2-600

    sewage overflow debrock 1-600

  10. I missed results of those tests . . . have they been posted anywhere?

    Also, it’s kind of funny/sad that it was brand new pipe that failed.

  11. I have to say that when I heard the news that
    I thought it was a construction accident at the corner of cm Allen and University, as there had been a huge pot hole there, and thought
    They might have breached sewer line as they
    Did repair.

  12. tick tock COSM, where are those e.coli readings? Are you doing follow ups? This seems like a case for Open San Marcos…oh that’s right…they only come … out come out…when it suits their interests …….

  13. My understanding is that the private contractors doing the road work were working on West SA and advised businesses their water would not be cut off, but due to some sort of issue i.e., mistake, snafu, etc. businesses in town lost water. For some of these businesses the water is CRUCIAL TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH.

    On another note, my understanding in another location here in San Marcos where there is road work, there is a potential gas and water issue. Businesses are shut down as a result.

    That is TWO LOCATIONS TODAY. Is the public being notified? Are the businesses being compensated?

    Can anyone tell me if Knox Street is getting drainage improvements? I know residents who have been wanting that fixed now for over two decades.

    Are there any San Marcos residents working for these contractors ?

    Is COSM testing the river for runoff and doing analysis? My understanding from COSM is that runoff from the construction is getting in the river and even when they are being proactive…guess what it still gets in the river. In sum, the streets will look pretty while the river is being polluted like it has never been before.

    Is this progress?

    I reviewed the e.coli reports. Why was no signage posted when the levels were elevated? Where is Open San Marcos?

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