Help us welcome Teresa Johnson to the SBCA team! Teresa earned her Master’s in Environmental Management & Sustainability from St. Edward’s University and a BS in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of Massachusetts. She has previous experience leading environmental education programming. Teresa is passionate about fostering a connection to the environment in others and believes empowering local communities is essential to sustainable conservation.
March 7, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Angela Richter, Executive Director, Save Barton Creek Association 512-480-0055, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dripping Springs Permit Referred to Contested Case Hearing
(AUSTIN) – A state agency decided this morning (March 7th) who can challenge a controversial plan allowing Dripping Springs to dump nearly a million gallons of treated sewage a day into Onion Creek, a major source of water for Austin’s famous Barton Springs.
TCEQ commissioners will allow Save Barton Creek Association, Protect Our Water, Save Our Springs Alliance, and several individual landowners to participate in the hearing. They also agreed that the City of Austin could proceed to the hearing for a determination of their affected status.
The hearing will be complete 180 days after the preliminary hearing, which is likely to be set for approximately 45 days from today. TCEQ will hear arguments for and against the proposed sewage permit. The state agency can then either grant or deny the permit or change its terms.
Groups have many concerns about the plan including pollution of groundwater in the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer. A campaign at nodrippingsewage.org revolves around a petition against piped sewage into creeks across the region and the slogan “There’s a better way.”
February 20, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State May Allow Landowners, Citizens to Fight Dripping Sewage Plans
(AUSTIN) – A state agency is considering who can challenge a controversial plan allowing Dripping Springs to dump nearly a million gallons of treated sewage a day into Onion Creek, a major source of water for Austin’s famous Barton Springs.
The Dripping Springs city government contends only very few individuals living near the sewage plant are affected. This sets the stage for a battle to be waged before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and in the courts over who has “standing” to be heard in the pollution case.
TCEQ’s governing board will make a decision on who can participate in the case at its March 7th public meeting. If anyone gets excluded, they can sue in civil court to be admitted into the process. This could be the opening skirmish in a long legal struggle.
Once the groups that have standing are decided, TCEQ will hear arguments for and against the proposed sewage permit. The state agency can then either grant or deny the permit or change its terms.
Several citizen groups opposing the discharge scheme are organized under a banner of “No Dripping Sewage.” Coalition members include Save Barton Creek Association, Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Clean Water Action. The campaign at nodrippingsewage.org revolves around a petition against piped sewage into creeks across the region and the slogan “There’s a better way.”
Both the TCEQ executive director and its in-house public interest attorney agree that citizen groups including Save Barton Creek Association, Save Our Springs Alliance, Protect Our Water, and some Hays County residents are “affected persons” who should be allowed into the process.
However, agency officials disagree among themselves about whether some local governments should be heard. The director would exclude Austin’s city government, and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) that protects groundwater.
The TCEQ Office of Public Interest Counsel (OPIC) disagrees, saying both Austin and BSEACD should be allowed to state their case before the commission’s governing board.
Clark Hancock, president of Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA) says “Half a million visits to Barton Springs each year demonstrate that this special place is near and dear to the people of Austin and beyond.”
“All legitimate interests need to be included in the TCEQ hearings,” Hancock said. “A full airing of issues before the commission is needed for the credibility of the process and to avoid other litigation. We want to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved—including Dripping Springs.”
As the year draws to a close, we would like to say thank you. Thank you for your enthusiasm and your generosity!
With the holidays approaching, we ask that you please remember Save Barton Creek Association in your holiday plans. In support of our work, please become a member of SBCA today. Generous donors like you are key to our success protecting Austin’s creeks and watersheds.
Thank you for your support,
On November 20th, Save Barton Creek Association hosted our annual membership gala, an Austin environmental tradition. As usual, the iconic Bill Oliver played during happy hour on the patio of the Zilker Clubhouse. Guests wined and dined amid a spectacular view of the Austin skyline. SBCA was proud to announce the new board of our organization, summarize our accomplishments of this past year, and give awards to outstanding members of our community.
- Completing our Goat Cave Karst Preserve Restoration Project
- Pressing for “No Discharge into Onion Creek” in any negotiated settlement between the cities of Austin and Dripping Springs
- Partnering with environmental groups to promote a resolution supporting Green Stormwater Infrastructure, which was unanimously passed by the Austin City Council on June 15
- Participating in Austin’s CodeNEXT process to promote the inclusion of the best water quality and flood controls in the city’s land development code.
Thank you to all the businesses that helped make this night a success: Salt Lick BBQ, Oskar Blues Brewery, Trader Joe’s, Valley Mills Vineyards, Shady Grove, Hiatus Spa + Retreat, and Zero Gravity Institute.
For more pictures and a list of our awardees visit our Annual Membership Gala page.
SBCA recently supplied the comments to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program comment period. Our focus was to prohibit direct discharge of wastewater in the contributing zone of the Edwards Aquifer and to ask for a public process to evaluate the rules in the context of new science and engineering best practices. The full comments letter can be found below.
October 27, 2017
RE: Edwards Aquifer Protection Program 2017 Comments
Save Barton Creek Association(SBCA) would like to submit the following comments to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on 30 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 213 (Edwards Rules) and the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP). The health of the Edwards Aquifer and in particular the Barton Springs segment of the aquifer is central to SBCA’s mission. Our organization has been working to protect the aquifer and educate the public on this unique and sensitive environmental resource since 1979. In recent years our mission has become even more critical as population in the Hill Country grows like never before.
This increase in development correlates to an increase in run-off and wastewater which must be dealt with sensitively if we are not to significantly degrade the water quality of the aquifer. Decreasing water quality is a significant problem for those who rely on well water as a drinking water source. It is also a problem for the natural environment and the communities that rely on the aesthetic, recreational, and economic benefits of clean rivers, streams, and the aquifer.
In addition to increasing development pressure, recent science and advancements in stormwater and effluent best management practices since the last Edwards Rules change must be taken into account. Save Barton Creek Association respectfully requests that TCEQ conduct a stakeholder process to review current science and discuss potential EAPP rule and guidance document modifications in a collaborative setting. We see a need for stakeholders including scientists, government entities, and nonprofits to efficiently coordinate and to provide TCEQ with the best available information to inform EAPP improvements. Such a stakeholder process is consistent with the TCEQ philosophy to base decisions on sound science, ensure regulations are effective and current, and ensure meaningful public participation in the decision-making process.
Our primary comment on the rules is that wastewater discharge should be prohibited in the Contributing Zone of the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer is extremely sensitive to pollution. Current rules only prevent wastewater discharge within the Recharge Zone despite the fact that the Contributing Zone is directly connected to the Recharge Zone. Discharges in the Contributing Zone, even in compliance with current rule, would significantly alter the quality of these oligotrophic surface waters and degrade the aquifer, as demonstrated by recent analysis of a proposed discharge permit to Onion Creek. Effluent water contains high levels of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) which cause algae blooms. These algae blooms are not only unsightly but through decomposition take up oxygen in the waterbody. The waterway may become hypoxic, causing fish and other aquatic life to perish. Algae also restricts light moving into the lower portions of the creek, altering habitat. These effects can reduce biodiversity and be a threat to endangered species. At high levels, nitrogen is unsafe in drinking water, restricting transport of oxygen in the blood. This is especially dangerous for babies and young livestock. Additionally, effluent water contains metals, pharmaceuticals, and many other chemicals from cleaning and body care products. The full effects of these products are not yet known.
There have not yet been direct discharges of sewage effluent in the contributing zone but the stage is set to change this. Individual landowners and nonprofits have been left to fight discharge proposals at great personal and financial cost. There are practical alternatives to direct discharge including land application and beneficial reuse.
We also ask that additional changes be made to the Edwards Rules based on the latest engineering science and best management practices. This includes technical guidance documentation for stormwater structural control measures (SCM) and stormwater best management practice performance standards. For example, the 80% total suspended solids removal standard of the Edwards Rules remains the benchmark used for assessing compliance for critical infrastructure projects like State Highway 45 Southwest even though studies by the City of Austin and others indicate degradation at these levels.
Additionally, we request that comments on the EAPP received during the public comment process be posted on the TCEQ website, and that TCEQ provide an estimate of when Edwards Rules will be updated. The EAPP website contains public comments from 2013, but not for later years. Finally, please review existing EAPP staffing levels to ensure sufficient staff are available to effectively monitor the rules. Water Pollution Abatement Plans are not consistently verified with proactive inspections in the field and inspections occur only in response to complaints. Greenfield developments may occur in areas not visible or accessible to the public, such that violations may occur without complaints being generated.
We look forward to participating in the requested stakeholder process to review current science and discuss potential EAPP rule modifications. We would also like to reiterate the importance of prohibiting direct discharge in the contributing zone and updating stormwater structural control measures (SCM) and stormwater best management practice performance standards based on current science and engineering best practices. Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
We look forward to your reply.
Executive Director, Save Barton Creek Association
Photo credit: www.sh45sw.com
At our October Creek Crew happy hour the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District told us about their monitoring of the SH45 highway project to ensure the project is complying with best practices to protect the aquifer during construction.
Check out this video of the SH45 construction over the aquifer:
This summer SBCA officially adopted the section of Barton Creek from the 360 entrance to Spyglass! The Adopt-a-Creek program is a collaboration between Keep Austin Beautiful and Austin’s Watershed Protection Department. The adoption means that SBCA is committed to at least 4 cleanups a year on the trail. We will also be stewarding the Barton Creek and the trail by removing invasive species.
Our first trail cleanup under the Adopt-a-Creek program was Saturday September 30th. Thanks to the Crew for all their work removing trash! Join our meetup.com group to find out about upcoming cleanups and events.