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Where there’s smoke, there isn’t always fire

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

In recent weeks, College Station Water Services has been conducting another round of smoke testing to evaluate the condition of some of our community’s aging wastewater lines. We started in the oldest areas of our wastewater collection system and will periodically test other parts of the system.

Through next week, we’ll be smoke testing in the area bounded by Harvey Road, Texas Avenue, Francis Drive, and Earl Rudder Freeway.

We do our best to make sure the public is aware of these tests, but the Fire Department still gets calls from worried residents who see smoke seeping out of sinks, vent pipes, manholes, and even the ground. Although no fire is present, CSFD still must respond, which ties up our valuable emergency response resources.

Smoke testing identifies locations of defects and improper connections. Technicians blow an odorless and non-toxic mist into the sewer and wait to see where it leaks out. It may exit through vent pipes on roofs, wastewater manholes, and the ground above breaks in the sewer system. Smoke might even find its way into service connections and vent from buildings served by the wastewater lines.

What are the benefits?

The wastewater collection system is designed to treat wastewater, not stormwater, and plays a vital role in maintaining our infrastructure. Excess water from inflow and infiltration takes up capacity in the pipes and ends up in our treatment plants, where it must be treated like sewage and results in higher treatment costs.

Inflow is stormwater that enters the sewer system through direct connections such as downspouts and drains that are connected to sewer service lines. Infiltration is rainfall that accumulates near sewer lines and enters the system through structural problems such as cracks and holes in the pipes.

Is it dangerous?

We use an odorless, non-toxic, non-staining mist that’s highly visible at low concentrations. It’s not really smoke, so it isn’t hazardous. If the mist enters your home, open your windows or doors and it should quickly dissipate.

Typically, the smoke enters buildings through a dry P-trap — the curved portion of pipe under the sink — or outside the base of a toilet where the wax seal has come undone. You can prevent this by running water down infrequently-used sinks. The sinks you use regularly have water in the P-trap that keeps the smoke from entering.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-6223. Please report problems with water, wastewater, or electricity to utility dispatch any time at 855-528-4278 and have your account number ready.


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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Need a fresh way to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

By Virginia Godwin, Recreation Supervisor

Tired of doing the same old things on Valentine’s Day? How about trying something different this year?

The City of College Station’s Trail of Lights Date Night might be the answer. Join us on Friday, Feb. 14, from 6-9 p.m. at Wolf Pen Creek Park for a romantic stroll through the Trail of Lights, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, then have dinner and dance the night away.

The event is in its third year, and we’ve added more seating for dining and a dance floor with a live DJ. Food trucks will also be available, or you can bring refreshments. Just remember that glass containers aren’t allowed and coolers must be 48 quarts or smaller.

To commemorate a memorable evening, you can take photos in the selfie booth or have a caricature drawn with your date. If you’re looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift, vendors will be on hand to help you out.

If you can’t make it out on Feb. 14, you can still stroll through the lights Feb. 7-16 from 6-10 p.m., although carriage rides won’t be available. Admission and activities are free, but prices for food trucks and gift vendors will vary.

Pets are also welcome, so don’t forget your furry loved ones!

For more information, visit cstx.gov/events or call 979-764-3486.

 


About the Blogger

Virginia Godwin is in her sixth year as recreation supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department. A College Station native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Sam Houston State in 2019.


 

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Posting your own “No Parking” sign isn’t a solution

By Esmeralda, Casas, Neighborhood and Community Relations Coordinator

Have you ever returned home to your nice, quiet neighborhood to find an unfamiliar vehicle parked on the street in front of your house? Regardless of whether the car belongs to a neighbor or one of their guests, you find it inconsiderate and annoying.

You call the police and the city’s code enforcement department, but they both tell you that for them to take any action, the vehicle must be blocking a driveway, facing traffic, or be otherwise improperly parked. Neither your neighbor nor his guest has violated the law.

You’re a little miffed to discover you have no legal entitlement to public parking spaces in front of your house. While it may be a nuisance when someone else parks there, it’s not against the law.

In frustration, you post an official-looking sign near your curb. The words “No Parking” in big, red letters are clear for everyone to see.

Problem solved? Not by a long shot.

State law prohibits you from placing or trying to enforce traffic-directing signs on public streets. That means your neighbor hasn’t broken the law – you have. Only city employees can legally install such signs.

If you think that scenario doesn’t happen, think again. We’ve seen a significant rise in residents posting unauthorized signs, especially no parking signs.

The bottom line is that streets maintained by the city are for public use. Unless an authorized sign states otherwise, they are available for anyone to park along.

That doesn’t mean the problem has no solution. The most effective course of action is to have a friendly talk with your neighbor. In most cases, you can work something out.

To report unauthorized signs or improperly parked vehicles, contact Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363 or submit your concern to SeeClickFix.

 


About the Blogger

Esmeralda Casas is in her first year as the city’s neighborhood and community relations coordinator. She previously served as an education and outreach specialist with the Sexual Assualt Resource Center and as the communications coordinator for The Salvation Army of Bryan/College Station. A Rio Grande Valley native, Esmeralda earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Lick Creek Star Party offers a relaxing escape

Silhouettes of people observing stars in night sky. Astronomy concept.

By Brooke Littlefield, Assistant Recreation Supervisor

The start of a new year typically means returning to busy schedules and beginning new ventures. Our fast-paced schedules can overtake the days, and we can’t seem to find time to pause and soak in the wonderful world around us.

A quiet evening in a serene, natural setting may be just what you need.

The Lick Creek Nature Center Star Party offers an ideal escape from your hectic lifestyle to explore the wonders of the nighttime sky. The free, family-friendly event is Friday, Feb. 21 from 7-10 p.m. and features space-themed crafts, activities, and stargazing.

We’ll learn about the phases of the moon, construct constellations, explore the night sky, and craft our way through the galaxy. Explorers can also enjoy galaxy-themed snacks, hot chocolate, and a photo booth.

Information booths about light pollution, constellations, nocturnal animals, and more will also enhance your understanding of the astronomical world. Additional parking is available at the Lick Creek equestrian entrance off Rock Prairie Road.

Grab your telescopes, friends, and family, and enjoy a night of stargazing and good company.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-6216 or blittlefield@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Brooke Littlefield is in her first year as an assistant recreation supervisor. A College Station native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Texas A&M in 2017.


 

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City manager to be deployed with Navy Reserve

City Manager Bryan Woods sent this message to city employees Monday night:

COCS Team,

We came together last Veterans Day to recognize this organization’s commitment to not only employing veterans but also to how our civilians willingly take on additional duties to allow coworkers to serve their country. That day and the service and support that are at the core of our organization are foremost in my mind as I write this message to you.

Some of you may know that in addition to getting to serve alongside you in this great organization, I’m an officer in the United States Navy Reserve. Late in 2019, I was informed I’d be recalled to active duty to mobilize with my unit. While the dates of my departure and return are fluid, I can tell you that I’ll be leaving in the next few months for training and won’t return until sometime in early 2021. The City Council and the Executive Management Team have been made aware and I can’t say enough about how supportive everyone has been.  I’d certainly not have chosen to deploy less than two years after joining you here, but I’m proud to get to serve our community in another way and do the job that I’ve been trained for.

My main goal in sending this email is to make sure you hear this from me prior to it becoming public information and to assure you that we’ll continue to strategically and deliberately transition my duties to the others in the City Manager’s Office before my departure.  I truly believe we run this organization as a team and I’m excited to see the outstanding things you’ll accomplish in my absence.

This city and our organization couldn’t be more fortunate than to have the leadership we do, and I’m confident it will shine in the months to come.  We’re also in a time of transition with a search for a new fire chief underway, a search for a new police chief beginning soon, and the opportunity to fill the vacant assistant city manager position.  I intend for these key personnel to be selected before I leave and that they will add to the leadership capacity we have as an organization.  As I’m able, I’ll continue to be engaged with the Council, Deputy City Manager Jeff Capps, Assistant City Manager Jeff Kersten, the CMO, and the rest of the organization to assist in any way I can, even after I’ve left for duty.

In closing, I again thank the Council, the community, and all of you for your support as I prepare for my deployment.  I know others will step up to take on additional responsibilities in my absence, and I’m truly grateful for the support this organization and community provides for service members and veterans.

I look forward to pushing towards numerous organizational accomplishments in the next few months and returning to work with you again soon.

One City, One Team.

Respectfully,

Bryan C. Woods, City Manager

– Public Communications Office

 

Don’t let drunken driving ruin your Super Bowl

By Jason Summers, CSPD Officer

For football fans, Super Bowl Sunday is the most anticipated day of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous days for motorists.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about 31 percent of traffic fatalities on a typical day involves a drunk driver. On Super Bowl Sunday, that awful number spikes to 43 percent.

The College Station Police Department will deploy extra officers in the peak hours before, during, and after Sunday’s game to proactively identify and apprehend drivers who are a danger.

If you see someone driving erratically, note the vehicle description, take down the license plate number, and call 911. Don’t try to stop the vehicle.

Enjoy the game and the fun festivities that surround it, but be the day’s most valuable player by drinking in moderation and designating a driver. Don’t let anyone else drive drunk, either.

We’re all on the same team when it comes to preventing drunken driving.

 


About the Blogger

Officer Jason Summers is completing his 16th year with the College Station Police Department.


 

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