Groups ask for no-discharge solution

Six citizen environmental groups have submitted a letter to Austin city leaders asking them to continue negotiations with Dripping Springs for a potential no-discharge solution.

The letter came as the six organizations, which include Protect Our Water (POW) and the Save our Springs Alliance (SOS), reasserted their opposition to the city’s discharge permit that was originally addressed in an October 2016 letter.

According to a press release, the letter was sent in light of a “possible settlement agreement between Austin and Dripping Springs” and new information on potential impacts to endangered species.

The groups, according to the release, believe the proposal between Austin and Dripping Springs is “far too weak on several points” and that it could allow sewage discharge into Onion Creek.

Dripping Springs in 2015 applied with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a Texas Pollutant Disposal Elimination Systems (TPDES) permit to expand its wastewater facilities for up to 995,000 gallons.

TCEQ issued a draft permit in 2016 and held a public hearing meeting on the item in November 2016.

In January, the City of Dripping Springs said in a release the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department modeled the city’s proposed beneficial reuse program. According to the city, preliminary findings indicated the city’s plan “meets the criteria” Austin evaluated potential impacts on quality of water in Onion Creek.

But the groups cite a recently released U.S. Fish and Wildlife letter to the EPA regarding the city’s permit, which recommended a no-discharge solution.

The letter addressed several areas of concern, including the potential impact discharge could have on endangered salamanders in Onion Creek. The groups claim the settlement is being “rushed” due to legislative pressure.

However, they did not offer any evidence to support their claim.

“The coalition points out that there are several more steps before any permit would be approved and premature settlement would be unwise,” the letter stated.

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