We recently posted “Ten Things Everyone Should Know About the City’s Proposed Wastewater Permit.” If you have not had an opportunity to read that blog post, we encourage you to do so. It explains that the City’s plan from the beginning has been, not to discharge, but to reuse treated effluent so as to lessen the demand on the existing water supply. The post also explains that the City needs a discharge permit because the only other option under the law, a land application permit, is not feasible for a variety of reasons.
At this time, we want to address three additional issues related to the proposed discharge permit that the City seeks.
1. The City’s permit, if issued, would be one of the most restrictive permits in the State.
The effluent the City would discharge, if we discharge at all, would be treated to among the highest standards in the State of Texas. We have been working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to determine the standards that would be required in our permit. Specifically, the levels stated in the proposed permit include: biochemical oxygen demand of 5 milligrams per liter, total suspended solids of 5 milligrams per liter, ammonia at 1.2 milligrams per liter, total phosphorous of .15 milligrams per liter, and total nitrogen at 6 milligrams per liter.
To put those numbers into context, we prepared a chart that puts our treatment levels up against the treatment levels required by the City of Austin in its various discharge and land application permits. That document is available HERE. As the chart indicates, the standards of our proposed permit are significantly higher than those under which the City of Austin currently operates.
Additionally, as was discussed in our prior post, the City’s ability to discharge would be limited by the settlement agreement we entered into with the Lower Colorado River Authority (“LCRA”). That settlement requires the City, among other things, to pursue beneficial reuse, to assure 199 acres of land that will beneficially reuse water, and to provide 12 million gallons of storage. Between the standards of treatment and the required alternatives to discharge that the City must pursue, the City’s permit would be among the most restrictive permits in the State.
2. The City is not aware of any science that indicates that occasional discharge would hurt Onion Creek or nearby wells.
We are not disregarding any science that has been conducted related to the City’s proposed permit. Studies done by those who oppose our permit assume regular discharge of 995,000 gallons per day for an extended period of time. We could debate the specifics of those studies and the conclusions that can be drawn from them, but, from our perspective, there is no reason to do so. As was detailed in our prior post, the City will not be discharging 995,000 gallons of effluent per day every day, nor will we come close to discharging that amount on a regular basis. We gave up that ability when we entered into a settlement with LCRA. The City has not seen or received any science that indicates that occasional discharge, should discharge even occur, would negatively impact the creek or nearby wells.
3. The City has not been given the opportunity to review the recent dye study.
We are aware of a dye study that was recently conducted and, from what we understand, continues today. Shortly after a preliminary report on the study was released, representatives of the City met with representatives of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, one of the contributors to the study, to request the specifics of the study and its conclusions. We were told that the study is not complete, has not been peer reviewed, and is not ready to be released. Even the specifics of the wells referenced in the preliminary report were not released to us. If the study is not complete, has not been peer reviewed and is not ready to be released, the City believes it premature for anyone to be referencing the preliminary report or citing the preliminary report as conclusive of impact on the creek or wells.
We offer this information in the hopes of educating area residents on this important issue. Again, we hope that with accurate and thorough information, our residents and those in the surrounding area will see that the City is making every effort, within the bounds of the law, to be a good steward of the available financial and environmental resources.
– Bill Foulds, Mayor Pro Tem, and Taline Manassian, Council Member