Dripping Springs Direct Discharge Wastewater Permit
July 5, 2018
“No Discharge, for Now,” in Dripping Springs Wastewater Case
Save Barton Creek Association, Protect Our Water, Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, and several landowners have entered into a settlement agreement over Dripping Springs’ direct discharge wastewater permit.
The permit has faced strong opposition over its impact on Onion Creek, drinking water wells, and Barton Springs. As originally drafted, it would have allowed 995,000 gal/day of treated sewage to be discharged directly into a tributary of Onion Creek. Onion Creek has proven interactions with local groundwater and wells, and supplies approximately a third of the flow at Barton Springs.
“As a result of the efforts of SBCA and the other protestants, Dripping Springs has agreed not to dump sewage into Onion Creek for the immediate future and create a Utility Commission that will help them meet their goals of wastewater re-use. A permit will still be issued but, if Dripping Springs stands by their commitments and the community continues to work together to protect our creeks and aquifers, we might be able to hand down to future generations a legacy we can be proud of.” said Clark Hancock, SBCA board president.
“What this agreement says is ‘No Discharge for now’.” Hancock continued, “What we need is ‘No Discharge forever’. SBCA is committed to continued engagement with Dripping Springs to help them meet their pledge of 100% reuse of wastewater. Our greater concern is that this issue isn’t limited to Dripping Springs. Region wide, there are others who are greedily looking at their local creeks as easy and cheap answers to complicated questions. They are wrong. Discharging sewage into local creeks is short-sighted and environmentally devastating, destroying the very essence of what makes the Hill Country so special. SBCA will continue our campaign against the practice of direct discharge, continuing to support sound science and wise engineering for Central Texas. We can do better, we must do better, we will do better, for we have no choice!”
The plant operates today at 90,000 gallons per day through a land application permit, where treated wastewater is sprayed on an irrigation field. Under this new settlement Dripping Springs agrees not to directly discharge into the creek while plant capacity is 399,000 gal/day and below. The settlement also reduces the volume that may ultimately be treated at the plant from 995,000 gal/day to 822,500 gal/day. Dripping Springs also agreed to certain amounts of irrigatable acreage in the form of beneficial reuse contracts and storage for their beneficial reuse system.
Read the Settlement Here.
The City of Dripping Springs Wants to Discharge Treated Sewage into Pristine Onion Creek.
The City of Dripping Springs has applied for a direct discharge wastewater permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to dump treated sewage into Onion Creek — a staggering 995,000 gallons per day. This unprecedented measure would threaten the city’s drinking water and cause algae blooms that kill off wildlife from Dripping Springs to Austin. Onion Creek provides 40% of Barton Springs’ flow! For additional information hear from speakers at our October 2016 #NoDrippingSewage Rally.
Thank you very much for your involvement so far. Many of you have written to TCEQ and your City Council members. Many attended our October 2016 rally or the November 10th, 2016 Public Meeting. More recently, you may have joined us at Austin City Council in December 2017 to tell them not to agree to a bad settlement.
We still have more to do. Please continue working with us to fight this bad proposal and others by joining our No Dripping Sewage Campaign.
- The TCEQ Executive Director has decided that the permit to discharge wastewater into Onion Creek meets legal requirements. The “Response to Comment” has been published and is available here. SBCA and others requested a contested case hearing and are waiting to hear if we will be given standing to be a party to this next legal step against the permit.
- Several of our members spoke against the plan at an Austin City Council meeting (Item 29) last month where City staff presented a very weak settlement option between the City of Austin and Dripping Springs. Thankfully, after hearing the concerns of environmental groups and citizens, the council voted to reject the settlement agreement! Read details about the meeting here.
- Dripping Springs City Council elections on May 6 saw the election of two new members. We are hopeful that these new voices will change the dialogue toward a no-discharge solution.
- Discharge ban bills died in the Texas legislature and will not become law this session.
- The protestant parties (Austin, LCRA, BSEACD, POW, SOS Alliance, and other landowners) are still working on a draft settlement agreement.
- No response has been issued from TCEQ to EPA; the permit is still on hold at EPA.
- Working with Protect Our Water, engineer Lauren Ross, produced a water balance analysis that showed Dripping Springs could accomplish 100% beneficial reuse of wastewater effluent (no discharge) by providing 700 acres for irrigation and 39 million gallons of storage.
SBCA and five other organizations sent a March 6th Letter to Austin City Council Members asking them to withdraw from a bad settlement proposal and continue negotiations with a goal of no discharge. Read the press release and February letter to Austin City Council here.
We also found out that US Fish and Wildlife also recommends a no discharge option due to effects on endangered species. Read the press release here.
The City of Austin is closer to settling with Dripping Springs. Read more here.
The EPA objected to TCEQ’s draft permit. We are waiting to hear what TCEQ’s response will be. Read more here.
SBCA and five other organizations sent a letter to Austin City Council Members asking them not to settle with Dripping Springs unless the result was no direct discharge. Read the letter here.
You can get involved by joining our No Dripping Sewage Campaign here.
Many of you wrote to TCEQ and your City Council Members in the fall. We asking for your help again. Please write to your Austin City Council Members again!
Find your council member here. You may wish to use the message below:
Council Member _______,
I am writing to you because I am very concerned about the recently circulated settlement proposal between City of Austin and City of Dripping Springs regarding Dripping Springs’ direct discharge wastewater permit. There is no reason to rush into a bad settlement that would jeopardize the aquifer and Barton Springs.
Please direct City of Austin staff to withdraw the settlement proposal and continue negotiations with a goal of no direct discharge. I also ask that you insist upon a public hearing prior to any action.
Michele Rene WestonDripping Springs, TX
We moved out here for the beauty and respect of nature. We swim in the rivers and fish in the lakes in our neighborhood. The fresh, clean spring-fed waters out here are treasured by my family. I think that the rest of the community out here feels the same way, which is why we all live out here. Protecting this piece of the Texas Hill Country ecosystem is a core value of our whole community. Do not compromise this. My children also highly value this area and we swim and hike around there often, and my kids go canoeing and kayaking there. My son is also a biology nut who treasures the endangered species of salamanders that this water system is home to. Don’t pollute this unique ecosystem. Don’t ruin it for my children and cause these species to go extinct.
Andrew HarrodAustin, TX
I grew up fishing Onion Creek and still do from time to time. 40% of the water that flows into Barton Springs comes from this creek. There are already algal blooms that happen in this creek due to urban runoff, let’s not contribute to any more!
Tricia EmbryAustin, TX
The proposed plan not only craps up our treasured Onion Creek, but has the very real potential to damage the aquifer all the way down to Barton Springs. Our environment is a big part of what makes the Hill Country such a special place. I don’t want the city taking that away from us just to save a few bucks.
Karen KocherAustin, TX
We have an obligation to future generations to preserve our natural resources. The plan to dumped nitrogen and phosphate rich water into Onion Creek is short-sighted and ultimately not in our best interest.
Greg WatsonSan Marcos, TX
Texas waterways are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and dumping waste into a creek is wrong on so many levels. Nobody wants to cool off in wastewater!
Stephen BeersCo-President / Save Barton Creek Association
Sewage plant operators favor creek dumping because it’s the simplest, most flexible way to (not) deal with waste. Considered narrowly, it’s also the “cheapest” option. However, such an approach blithely ignores damage and risks to our streams, aquifers, wells, and springs.
In the News
Bill Would Stop Austin from Protesting Pollution March 8, 2017, Austin Monitor