Public Communications

Fighting fatbergs is a dirty (but avoidable) job

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

Remember the iconic line from the movie “Titanic”?

“Fatberg, right ahead!”

Wait, what?

Sorry, the movie line was actually about an iceberg. But fatbergs are real, and they can put a fat hole in a utility’s maintenance and operations budget.

Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) – along with flushable and non-flushable rags and wipes – merge in our sewers to form solid, immovable blockages known as fatbergs. They are worse in the winter months when cooler temperatures make it easier for the FOG to solidify.

Recently in London, it took nine weeks to dislodge a fatberg measuring 800 feet long and weighing 130 tons. That’s the same as 10 London double-decker buses.

The unsightly blobs can also significantly impact water quality and the environment after sewer overflows. We traced a recent sewer overflow to grease and paper towels coming from a fast food restaurant, which had to close for five hours while we made repairs.

Who drew the short straw?

While College Station hasn’t had fatbergs that colossal, we aren’t immune to problems caused by FOG and wipes. When a big grease blob sticks to the ultraviolet light used to disinfect our wastewater, the light can’t do its job.

When that happens, Courageous operators must manually remove disgusting balls of grease, wads of wipes, paper towels – even underwear – to keep expensive equipment from being damaged.

I’m not sure, but our brave operators probably draw straws to see who handles that dirty job!

Fatbergs can be costly

FOG and trash in the sewer system can also lead to increases in your wastewater rate. For the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion, a $150,000 preliminary screening station was added to the design to remove such things as wipes, rags, hygiene products of the cotton and plastic variety, and trash.

If you need to see it to believe it, the City of Spokane, Washington filmed an experiment with several commonly flushed items to find the answer to the question “will it flush?” Spoiler alert: only the toilet paper flushed.

Manually removing the grease at our wastewater plants costs the city an average of $600 a week.

3 ways to trim the fat

  1. Scrape food scraps into the garbage and let grease solidify in pans before placing it in the trash. Pour oil and grease into a can and after it hardens, put the sealed container in the regular trash.
  2. Avoid placing paper products – even those marked as flushable – down the drain or in the toilet. #NoWipesinPipes
  3. You can help protect your sewer system by remembering to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poop, and toilet paper.

College Station Water Services – especially our valiant wastewater operators – appreciate your assistance in reducing our fatberg problem.

If you have any questions, email me at jnations@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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4 new twists for Christmas in the Park

By Kelli Nesbitt, Parks & Recreation Marketing Coordinator

Now that the colorful holiday lights are on in Stephen C. Beachy Central Park, it’s time for consecutive weekends of fun at the City of College Station’s Christmas in the Park.

The first activities are Friday and Saturday from 6-10 p.m. at Beachy Central Park, followed by the second weekend Dec. 7-8.

In its 35th year, the annual Christmas event promises to be even better with an additional weekend of festivities, a pair of snow slides, a mobile stage, and a full slate of family-friendly experiences. As usual, you can also enjoy free hot cocoa and cookies, pictures with Santa, hayrides, performances by local song and dance groups, and more.

Christmas in the Park has evolved from a tiny idea and small light display in 1984 into a beloved community tradition. During those years, we tried a lot of different things. Some worked well, and others failed. Here are four new twists we’re trying out in 2018:

  1. Recreation Drive will close from 4-10 p.m. and visitors will be unable to drive through the park. Shuttles will run from 5:30-10:30 p.m. from the Post Oak Mall parking lot (JCPenney side). Handicap parking will be located at the Beachy Central Park softball complex, which can be accessed from State Highway 6.
  2. Free wristbands are required to participate in activities, including the hayride, snow slides, arts and crafts, joy jumps, train, petting zoo, and photos with Santa. To receive a wristband, you must complete a waiver form at an information booth.
  3. A professional photographer is no longer provided for photos with Santa, but you are encouraged to bring your camera to capture the moment. Pets aren’t allowed.
  4. Because of the construction of the Fun for All Playground, our 90-foot-tall Christmas tree has been relocated along Recreation Lane. The new spot has plenty of room to continue the tradition of spinning beneath the giant Tower of Power.

If you can’t make it out for the Christmas in the Park activity weekends, you can still drive or walk through the park on other nights from 6-11 p.m. through New Year’s Day. Our more than 1 million beautiful lights are always the main attraction.

For more information, go to cstx.gov/Christmas or call 979-764-3486.

 


About the Blogger

Kelli Nesbitt (@kneztalk) has served the Parks & Recreation Department for 14 years, the last seven as marketing coordinator. A native of Bryan, Kelli earned a bachelor’s degree in health & kinesiology from Sam Houston State.


 

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Small Business Saturday focuses on entrepreneurship

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

When our family’s business closed its doors in 1987, it ended more than six decades of serving families in our small, West Texas town — and families in many of the towns around it.

So, maybe it’s in my DNA to shop and dine at mom-and-pop establishments — even when online or big-brand storefronts might save me a few bucks.

That’s what Small Business Saturday (Nov. 24) is all about. While we appreciate all the businesses that operate in College Station, Small Business Saturday allows us to place additional focus on the entrepreneurs who took tremendous personal risks to invest here and compete in an incredibly tough retail, dining and services landscape.

If you happen to own one of these small businesses, let us hear from you in the days leading up to Small Business Saturday by tweeting at us (@CityofCS) with your business name and what it offers. Be sure to include the hashtag #ShopSmallCS.

Including small businesses, like the one my family operated for 60+ years, in your shopping and dining habits is a great way to support our community. And there’s no better time to start than after Black Friday (Nov. 23) and before Cyber Monday (Nov. 26).

Thank you, small businesses, for investing in us. Let’s all commit to investing more in you.

 


About the Blogger

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his 10th year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. A native of Breckenridge, he also serves as president of the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.


 

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5 things to watch at Monday’s city council meetings

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council gathers Monday at city hall for its workshop (4 p.m.) and regular (6 p.m.) meetings.

Here are five items to watch:

  1. Canvassing of Election Returns: The council will canvass returns and declare results from the Nov. 6 election for places 4 and 6 on the city council and five city charter amendments.
  2. Vessali Takes Oath of Office: Place 4 Councilwoman-elect Elianor Vessali will take the oath of office, followed by a short reception bidding farewell to outgoing Councilman Barry Moore. Place 6 will be decided in a Dec. 11 run-off between Elizabeth Cunha and Dennis Maloney.
  3. Open Storage: On the consent agenda is an amendment that eliminates the open storage of commodities for sale, lease or inventory in areas zoned rural and allows the storage of materials for private use that are not visible from the public right-of-way.
  4. Accessory Living Quarters: After a public hearing, the council will consider amending the city’s Unified Development Ordinance regarding off-street parking and the rental of accessory living quarters.
  5. Single-Family Height Protection: After a public hearing, the council will consider amending the city’s Unified Development Ordinance regarding single-family height protection and building height.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Channel 19 or online. Please note that we won’t be doing a live blog from this meeting.

Related Links:                                                                 

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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Holiday cheer returns with Christmas in the Park

 

By Kelly Kelbly, Assistant Parks & Recreation Director

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – at least in Stephen C. Beachy Central Park!

College Station’s beautiful Christmas in the Park displays began in 1984 with a couple of light panels and funding from a local family. The displays have grown to more than one million lights and have become a holiday mainstay in our community.

This year, the lights will burn nightly from 6-11 p.m. from Nov. 22 through New Year’s Day.

What’s different this year?

Thanks to a generous donation by Britt Rice Electric, the 90-foot-tall Christmas tree – a community favorite with more than 14,000 bulbs – will be relocated along Recreation Lane to accommodate the ongoing construction of the Fun for All Playground. Despite the move, the tradition of spinning beneath the giant Tower of Power will continue.

We also encourage you to continue the tradition of driving through the 60 strands of lights that envelop Santa’s Lane. We’ll close the drive-thru on the weekends of Nov. 30-Dec.1 and Dec.7-8 to keep everyone safe as you visit Santa, go on hayrides and grab free hot chocolate and cookies. On those nights, you can still walk through Snowflake Forest – made up of 36 snowflakes – and take pictures in front of the 36-foot lighted paddle boat.

Thank you, Parks crews!

Our crews work year-round prepping the light panels to ensure they brightly shine when it’s time to switch them on. The hundreds of illuminated panels – a bulb for every inch – must be taped precisely to preserve the panel’s mesmerizing effects. Cemetery Sexton Ron Schaefer, better known around our offices as Father Christmas, manages workers from all park districts throughout the fall to create nothing less than Christmas magic.

We encourage you to enjoy the time-honored tradition of holiday lights at Beachy Central Park. For more information, go to cstx.gov/Christmas or call 979-764-3486.

 


kkbioAbout the Blogger

Assistant Director Kelly Kelbly is in her 18th year with the College Station Parks & Recreation Department. A native of Gilmer, Kelly is a 1998 graduate of Texas A&M.


 

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Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (Nov. 8)

(L-R): Bob Brick, Linda Harvell, Jerome Rektorik, Karl Mooney (mayor), John Nichols, Barry Moore, James Benham.

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

Welcome to our live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Nov. 8. It’s not the official minutes.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink channel 19 or online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

5:31 p.m.

The workshop has started. The council took no action from executive session.

5:41 p.m.

Consent Agenda Discussion

The council will vote on items listed on the consent agenda during tonight’s regular meeting. Councilmembers pulled these consent items for workshop discussion:

  • Lakeway Extension Change Order: Staff recommends approval of a $214,000 change order to the Lakeway Drive Extension Project construction contract with Larry Young Paving because of the unforeseen thickness of rock formations.
  • CSU Service Center Expansion: Staff recommends approval of contracts to purchase almost 13 acres of land for $1.67 million with an option to buy two additional acres to expand the College Station Utilities service center.
  • All-Way Stop at Victoria-Castlegate: The amendment to the city’s Code of Ordinances would implement an all-way stop at the intersection of Victoria Avenue and Castlegate Drive.

6:33 p.m.

Bryan’s Neighborhood Protection Ordinances

Martin Zimmermann, assistant director of Planning and Development Services for the City of Bryan, gave the council a brief overview of Bryan’s Residential Conservation District and a recent ordinance amendment that defines and regulates stealth dorms as “Detached Shared Housing.”

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

6:48 p.m.

Televising Planning & Zoning Workshops

The consensus of the council is to televise the Planning and Zoning Commission’s workshop meetings. The regular meetings already are televised on the city’s cable channel.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

6:51 p.m.

Mayor Karl Mooney adjourned the workshop after the council discussed its calendar and received committee reports. The regular meeting will start after a short break.

6:59 p.m.

The regular meeting has started.

7:02 p.m.

World War I Centennial Armistice

Mayor Mooney read a proclamation on the Bells of Peace World War I remembrance marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting on Nov. 11, 1918. Some 116,516 Americans died in the war, and another 200,000 were wounded. The United States World War I Centennial Commission calls upon all Americans to toll bells at 11 a.m. on Sunday – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – in remembrance of those who served.

7:07 p.m.

Hear Visitors

One person spoke during Hear Visitors when citizens might address the council on any item that doesn’t appear on the posted agenda.

  • James Benham recognized his great uncle, Lt. Thomas W. Benham, for his service in the U.S. Army in World War I. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 94.

7:08 p.m.

Consent Agenda

The council voted unanimously to approve the entire consent agenda:

  • A $350,000 contract with Duro-Last for roofing city hall and annex buildings.
  • A $125,184.51 assist-in-construction request by Bryan Texas Utilities.
  • A $350,000 relocation reimbursement agreement with Explorer Pipeline Company.
  • A $213,963.46 change order to the Lakeway Drive Extension Project contract with Larry Young Paving.
  • A contract with Olive Margaret Arnold for the $1.67 million purchase of 12.84 acres and the option to buy two additional acres needed for the expansion of the CSU service center.
  • An ordinance implementing an all-way stop at the intersection of Victoria Avenue and Castlegate Drive.
  • A change order deducting $54,300 from the contract with Weisinger to replace the pump assembly and motor for Well 7.

7:24 p.m.

New City Hall Exterior Rendering

The council unanimously approved Kirksey Architecture’s exterior rendering of the new city hall, which will be located behind the existing facility on Texas Avenue. The rendering was completed with input from the council’s Architectural Advisory Committee:

The site was dedicated this afternoon:

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:49 p.m.

Electric Advisory Board

The consensus of the council was to continue exploring the creation of an electric advisory board to govern College Station Utilities. 

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:50 p.m.

Sister Cities Appointment

The council unanimously appointed Councilman John Nichols as College Station’s Representative to Sister Cities.

7:52 p.m.

The council discussed and reviewed future agenda items.

7:52 p.m.

Mayor Mooney adjourned the meeting. The council meets again on Monday, Nov. 19.

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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