Wastewater from Fayette power plant concerns environmentalists

Fayette Power Project is shown in Ellinger, Texas. (AP Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some families near the coal power plant in Fayette County, that provides electricity to the Austin area, are worried about what is coming out of the facility. The Fayette Power Project is run by the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Harvey Hayek lives in La Grange and is the president of Texans for Responsible Energy and Water.

“This is a little bit of a sample I brought along here,” said Hayek, with a bottle of off-colored, murky water. “[There’s] a lot of dark sediments in it.”

Hayek took the water from Baylor Creek, downstream from the plant, after heavy rains in March.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never seen that type of water going down that creek,” Hayek said.

He paid to test the water in a lab and says it turned up several heavy metals. Hayek thinks it is directly the result of runoff from the power plant. But that plant discharges wastewater elsewhere: into nearby Cedar Creek. Hayek and others attended a meeting with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as the LCRA works to renew their permit on Cedar Creek to keep discharging waste water there.

“We’re not asking to do anything new or different. We’re just asking to continue to do what we’ve done before: updating the rules and regulations,” said Bill Steinhauser, the manager of environmental affairs at LCRA.

But Hayek worries Cedar Creek could be at risk of contamination after he found pollutants in Baylor Creek. Steinhauser says LCRA tested Baylor Creek themselves and that Hayek’s bottle of dirty water isn’t their fault.

“We’ve done our investigation, and we went upstream from the plant. And we saw that it looked the same upstream from the plant as downstream from the plant,” said Steinhauser. “We know it’s not ash water from the Fayette Power Project.”

Hayek and others hope TCEQ pays attention to their concerns and reconsiders the permit.

“If it goes down that Cedar Creek and into the Colorado River, then it comes right to my farm, and my animals drink it. And my trees absorb it,” said Hayek.

The LCRA says TCEQ tests water near the Fayette Power Project every two to three years. The agency first got the waste water discharge permit in 1978 and renews it every five years. TCEQ will decide whether to renew their permit with the LCRA in about three months.

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