TCEQ asked to supply more information on permit for Onion Creek wastewater

Neighbors push against city to allow treated wastewater in creek (KXAN Photo)
Neighbors push against city to allow treated wastewater in Onion Creek in Dripping Springs, on July 7, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to provide additional information on potential environmental impacts related to a permit to allow treated wastewater by the city of Dripping Springs to be dumped into Onion Creek.

Protect Our Water (POW), a citizen’s group organized to protect Onion Creek and local wells from pollution, petitioned the EPA to review Dripping Springs’ draft permit because the organization believes TCEQ did not comply with laws designed to protect high quality streams like Onion Creek from excessive algae growth and degradation. The letter from the EPA to TCEQ states: “There is concern that the effluent limits proposed in the draft permit would contribute more than 450 pounds of phosphorus (P) per year in a phosphorus limited stream with a currently estimated annual load of approximately 1 pound of P annually and the proposed increase of Total Nitrogen (N) would be even more significant.”

Numerous meetings have been held over the past year to discuss the city’s application for the permit. Some residents have voiced their concerns about possible pollution in the waterways.

“This process could potentially devastate the water quality and overall health of Onion Creek and more importantly potentially contaminate and pollute not only our immediate drinking water supply, but also for hundreds of well owners and downstream interests in all aquifers concerned,” said Driftwood resident Wes Pitts at a meeting in July.

The board of directors of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District also opposes the application. The group claims that by allowing direct discharge of treated effluent from the city of Dripping Springs into Onion Creek that it could potentially enter the recharge zone of the Trinity Aquifer.

While TCEQ is responsible for wastewater discharge permits in Texas, the EPA still has the authority to object to TCEQ’s issuance of those permits depending on the information provided.

In a statement Monday, a TCEQ spokesperson said they are evaluating the EPA objection letter and cooperating with the agency to address the issues in the letter. The commission continued, “After the issues are resolved, the TCEQ will move the application and draft permit to the next stage of the permitting process and mail out the response to comments.”