Tuesday, June 25, 2024 Jun 25, 2024
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Nature & Environment

Plano Keeps Using White Rock Lake as a Toilet

A recent spill of sewage is only part of the picture.
The highlighted strip shows the path of White Rock Creek, which ends at White Rock Lake.

In March, a Plano wastewater facility operated by the North Texas Municipal Water District malfunctioned and spilled 1.5 million gallons of sewage into White Rock Creek, which feeds into the East Dallas lake. E. coli levels spiked above our capacity to measure them using standard monitoring methods. All that poop forced Dallas to close White Rock Lake to water activities.

Gross, right? But at least it was a one-time thing. Accidents happen.

Not so. Plano has been spilling its sewage on Dallas for years. Newly disclosed records indicate that we might need to change White Rock Creek’s name to Shit Creek.

After the most recent spill—it’s technically called a “sanitary sewer overflow,” or SSO—the Morning News published an op-ed from the executive director of Environment Texas that said five such SSOs in Plano have occurred since 2019. That turns out not to be true.

Someone I know filed an open records request to obtain the investigation report from the March SSO in Plano. That report comes from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, and you can read it here. It is signed by a TCEQ investigator named Bismark Otorino, which is a name that makes me happy. Bismark wrote: “The City of Plano has reported thirteen (13) SSOs that have impacted White Rock Creek during the record review period of 2019 to 2024.” Thirteen is more than two times five. That is maths.

But wait. That someone I know also got raw data from TCEQ that indicates that since 2017, through March 2024, Plano has crapped in White Rock Creek about 30 times, for a total of nearly 6 million gallons of brown water. To put that in perspective, an Olympic swimming pool contains about 660,000 gallons of water. Which means that if you had to do a backstroke in Plano’s filth, you’d have plenty of filth if you did your swimming in Shit Creek.

White Rock Lake lies in District 9. I called Paula Blackmon, the councilperson who reps that district. Blackmon had to be careful about what she said because the city of Dallas held an executive session in April about Plano’s shit. What happens in executive session stays in executive session. But I can guess that the city of Dallas is thinking about suing Plano for repeatedly SSOing on us. Here’s what Blackmon could say on the record:

“Same shit, different day. They [Plano] are aware that we [Dallas] are not happy and that they need to stop. I did call Plano myself and talked to [Director of Policy and Government Relations] Andrew Fortune. They need to get their stuff working. Bitching and yelling from the highest mountain isn’t going to solve the problem. They need to fix their infrastructure.”

So here we are. Plano has a history of crapping on Dallas. At times, as a result, White Rock Lake is unsafe for humans (and presumably gross for birds). The only solution I can offer? Those of us in Dallas, I suggest we start doing our bottom business in diapers so that we can carry our sentiments upstream and make Plano our Diaper Genie. One good dump deserves another.


Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…