Landowners, Aquifer Alliance win battle over TCEQ permit

Gavel - KXAN File

COMAL COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Landowners in Comal County took a victory Tuesday in a long-running case against a state agency’s permit allowing a subdivision next door to release treated wastewater onto area land.

The plaintiffs, including landowners and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, have argued Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved a discharge permit that should not have been issued, and the treated wastewater poses a risk to the sensitive Edwards Aquifer, according to court records.

The landowners and GEAA sued TCEQ in Travis County District Court in December of 2015. District Judge Amy Clark Meachum filed a letter signaling she would side with the plaintiffs Tuesday. In the letter, she said the court would reverse the TCEQ’s decision to issue the wastewater discharge permit and remand the cause back to the environmental agency for further consideration.

DHJB Development, LLC, is the company behind the Johnson Ranch subdivision located near Bulverde along U.S. 281. The development company did not respond to a call for comment.

Mary Conner, an environmental attorney with Irvine & Conner PLLC, represents the plaintiffs. She called Meachum’s decision a “great victory.”

  • You can read the Judge Meachum’s letter here.

Connor said the plaintiffs showed the area where the development discharged its treated wastewater lacked bed and bank features and could not be considered a state watercourse. Therefore, the TCEQ’s permit for wastewater discharge into a waterway of the state should not have been approved, she said.

“Clearly, the permit has been vacated and the agency is going to have to work with the [developer] to figure out a different solution for right now,” Conner said.

Annalisa Peace, GEAA executive director, said the district court’s decision was “very important,” and she was glad the landowners stayed involved in the drawn-out proceedings.

The landowner plaintiffs, including Patricia and Terrell Graham, Margie Hastings and Asa Dunn, have fought the permit since their contested case began in mid 2014, according to the lawsuit.

Peace said the practice of recharging the Edwards Aquifer with treated effluent “has to stop.”

“You are essentially recharging the aquifer with effluent that is not treated to drinking water standards.”

“You are essentially recharging the aquifer with effluent that is not treated to drinking water standards,” Peace said.

Attorneys for DHJB Development and the Johnson Ranch Municipal Utility District— both sided with the TCEQ—did not respond to emails and calls for comment.

A spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General’s Office said the agency could not comment until the District Court files the order.

TCEQ spokesperson Andrea Morrow said, “the appeal on this matter is still pending in litigation therefore, we can’t comment further.”

If the TCEQ appeals, Conner said they “will be ready for that.”

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