Fort Worth’s wastewater department is still responding to damage in the immediate aftermath of record rainfall that hit the Metroplex Monday. Other city departments are also hard at work, cleaning up litter and notifying residents of possible water contamination. 

Crews are cleaning up sediment, checking drainage infrastructure and preparing for the next big rain, Jennifer Dyke, Fort Worth’s stormwater program manager, said. She acknowledges that the flooding problems Fort Worth faces are not easily resolved. 

“A lot of the flood problems that we have are just bigger than what our resources can cover,” Dyke said. “But are there some smaller scale projects that we could implement? Maybe there’s some smaller things we can do.”

The West 7th Street entertainment corridor, parts of east Fort Worth and other low lying areas have severe drainage issues, Dyke said. Fixing it would cost millions of dollars, so the city is constantly looking for grants and other funding mechanisms to address the problem, Dyke said. 

When a home or business floods, the stormwater department sends staff to inspect the damage. If the flooding is on private property, there is little the city can do to help, Dyke said. Staff inspect the area to ensure the city infrastructure, like drains and inlets, aren’t blocked. 

“The capacity of the infrastructure is low in some areas, but we want to make sure that at least it’s clean and working,” Dyke said. 

However, the data the city collects from these visits helps it prioritize which areas need better flood infrastructure. 

“It’s great data and we want to make sure that we’re using this data to help inform our decision-making move forward,” Dyke said. 

Fort Worth’s Transportation Public Works department prioritizes fixing roads where flooding can turn life threatening during heavy rains. The department will use data from this rain event to prioritize areas where flooding is most severe, Dyke said. Fixing roads prone to flooding is their first priority, Dyke said. 

“It has the most potential for someone to lose their life,” Dyke said. 

While the city can not afford a comprehensive upgrade of the city’s stormwater systems, the department works to maintain its existing infrastructure, Dyke said. Possible improvements include upgrading the city’s storm drains and restoring eroded channels — which washes away the banks of the river, leading to more flooding. 

It can be easy to forget about the impacts of flooding during a drought, Dyke said. This event should remind everyone to stay focused on protecting people and property, she added. 

“Our team comes to work knowing that floods like this will happen,” Dyke said. “We want our systems to be performing to the best of their abilities. It really just helps to show the need to continue to invest resources into both the maintenance and the improvements of our stormwater infrastructure.”

Ciy, water district collaborate on litter pickup

As clouds cleared, litter was left in the wake of flood waters — particularly on the Trinity Trails. 

“The drought conditions combined with heavy rains, led to a very, very high volume of trash and debris,” Cody Whittenburg, Fort Worth’s assistant code compliance director, said. 

Organizations, including Fort Worth, are partnering to escalate the clean-up efforts. Fort Worth Code Compliance, the Tarrant Regional Water District and nonprofit Streams and Valleys are working together with nonprofits and volunteers to clean up the Trinity Trails. 

Keep Fort Worth Beautiful is hosting daily cleanups from Aug. 25 through Aug. 28. UpSpire, a nonprofit jobs program run through the Presbyterian Night Shelter, contracts with the city for litter abatement. The public can expect more UpSpire crews picking up litter over the next few days, Whittenburg said. 

City staff are reaching out to registered Keep Fort Worth Beautiful and Trinity Trash Bash volunteers to organize additional clean ups. 

“Our goal is to restore their public spaces to a pre-flood state, or better,” Whittenburg said. 

Residents can report litter through the MyFW App. If residents want to organize their own clean-up, supplies are available through Keep Fort Worth Beautiful, you can email the organization at KFWB@fortworthtexas.gov

Ten sewer overflows hit Fort Worth neighborhoods during storm

During heavy rainfalls, water can make its way into sewer pipes. When the pipes overfill, rainwater combined with raw sewage can make its way onto the street through manholes. 

The city is required to notify residents when the overflows are within a half-mile of a water source, or if they discharge 5,000 gallons of water. There were 10 overflow sites during the storm, Mary Gugliuzza, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Water Department, said. 

Two overflow sites were near sources of drinking water: Lake Arlington and the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. Drinking water was not impacted, Gugliuzza said. 

The city can add and upgrade sewer lines to prevent overflows, Gugliuzza said. However projects can take years to fund and complete. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality offers a Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative, providing municipalities resources to encourage fixing the sewers before it harms human health. 

Fort Worth participates in the program. Still, fixing sewers is a complex process — involving upsizing existing lines, running another line parallel to the existing line to increase capacity and  lining the pipes to repair cracks. 

The city is slowly making progress on repairing sewer lines, Gugliuzza said.

“The system held up very well, I know of rain events where we had many overflows than this,” Gugliuzza said. “Improvements we’ve made have helped and they’ll continue to help.”

Cracks in private sewer lines can also lead to overtopping. Those lines are out of the city’s control, Gugliuzza said.

Sewer overflow can harm people who wade in the water. Gugliuzza suggests immediately showering if you come into contact with the water coming out of sewers. Pets and wildlife can also be impacted. 

Stormwater management will receive a funding boost after the City Council approved a stormwater fee increase as part of the 2020 fiscal year budget. By the end of 2023, stormwater will have $100 million to spend on infrastructure upgrades, Dyke said. 

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel Behrndt

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org