The Dublin city council must create a long-term plan and commit annual funds to the wastewater infrastructure in the city, according to Public Works Director Cory James.

The more than 50-year-old wastewater infrastructure system has now exceeded its' life span, and the clay pipes are crumbling underneath the city.

According to James, Dublin faces many problems that primarily revolve around excess inflow and infiltration into the lines. Dublin currently has too much water flowing through cracks and holes into the sewer lines.

James said the issues create bigger problems at the wastewater treatment plant because the excess water enters the lagoon-style plant and forces water out of the lagoon too soon. He said water must filter within the lagoons for a minimum of 28 days. When excess water flows through, it can push contaminated water out too early and infiltrate the water table.

The TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) has already taken notice. The city is currently paying off $102,000 in fines for violations that occurred from 2008-09.

Now Dublin must put a long-term plan in place for improving the wastewater systems by July or face additional fines and other penalties from the TCEQ.

"Fines take away money we could be using for the wastewater treatment plant and waterline improvements we could be - and need to be - doing," James said.

James is urging city council not to sit idle on this issue any longer.

"The city needs to look at a long-term plan and make an annual commitment in the budget," James said.

The Public Works Department makes repairs to the wastewater pipes and treatment plant, but their expertise and resources are not enough to combat the decay.

There were 15 segments of the existing sewer lines scattered across town, identified as priority improvements that must be made by contracted professionals at a cost of more than $2 million.

After those repairs are made, city officials can begin tackling construction of a new treatment plant.

City council is left with a heavy decision - how to make the improvements without sufficient funds allocated in the budget for the project, which is expected to cost $4.8 million.

City manager Jerry Guillory said he is in the beginning stages of applying for a grant through the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Rural Development Division.

Until the USDA determines how much - if any - of the project it will fund, the city will not know how much their portion of the project will cost.

If the USDA chooses not to to award a grant to the city, Dublin is still faced with making the improvements to its' wastewater infrastructure. The TCEQ has mandated that city officials have a plan for sewer and treatment plant upgrades by July.

Guillory said he is also continuing to identify other grants and sources of funding.

Either way, the city council must soon decide how they will fund their portion of the project: through an increase in taxes, an additional charge to public utility customers or a combination of the two.

In the meantime, public works employees will continue repairing problems as they arise and hope that issues do not become disastrous before a solution comes to fruition.

"We can react to these problems and fix them as they come up, but the problems are only getting worse. It's time to be proactive," Guillory said.