Challenge. Given its location in an environmentally-sensitive area of northwest Austin (in close proximity to nature preserves with threatened and endangered species), ensure that the design, construction, and startup of this new water treatment plant is accomplished in accordance with applicable regulations and established environmental goals.

Solution. INTERA led a multi-disciplinary Environmental Commissioning Consultant (ECC) team responsible for performing independent, third-party review of the planning, design, construction, and operational startup of this new City drinking water treatment plant located in northwest Austin. WTP4 is a high profile project because it is located near sensitive environmental habitat and withdraws water from Lake Travis. The transmission main for finished water runs underneath the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. In response to environmental concerns, the Austin City Council set strict goals and objectives for the project to be exceptionally focused towards eliminating or minimizing the environmental impact of the project. The ECC team that we assembled included some of the best expertise available in Austin in areas such as endangered and threatened species, hydrogeology, and stormwater controls and best management practices (BMPs). Our activities included: supporting the establishment of site selection criteria when the original proposed site was moved to a new site; reviewing site plans and BMPs; performing engineering reviews of the process design to evaluate environmental protection and energy conservation measures; compiling data for an evaluation of the impact of tunneling on the groundwater and springs of the Jollyville Plateau and the potential impacts to the Jollyville Plateau Salamander habitat; reviewing the proposed groundwater assessment scope of work to be performed by the City’s tunneling engineers; participating in preparation of the EC Plan for the 6-mile long water transmission main used to move potable water from the treatment plant to the City of Austin drinking water distribution system; monitoring tunnel access shaft construction; preparing the Environmental Monitoring Plan; and working with the City to install the environmental monitoring system, collect samples, perform analyses, and interpret results. WTP4 started operation in December 2014, and as a result of the ECC team’s efforts, represents one of the most environmentally-sensitive water treatment facilities ever constructed.