Should Dripping Springs look at alternatives?

by Wes Pitts

Dripping Springs can provide the wastewater capacity this community needs with a no-discharge solution. We can protect our drinking water, and serve growth responsibly. The City is currently pursuing authorization to discharge 995k gallons per day (gpd) of treated sewage into Onion Creek and regardless of stated intentions, they have refused to commit to a no-discharge solution.

Groundwater scientists have shown strong evidence that Onion Creek recharges the aquifer that local wells draw from, meaning that public and private drinking water wells could be contaminated by treated sewage. The groundwater districts charged with protecting groundwater all oppose the discharge plan because of the threats to Onion Creek and groundwater. The Texas Water Development Board has acknowledged, “Any pollution into Onion Creek could result in contamination” of the aquifer “currently providing groundwater to the WSC wells.” We asked the City for its own data or analysis showing that groundwater will not be contaminated, but have received no response.

Unlike Belterra’s permit, the City’s draft permit does not limit nitrogen, does not require in-stream monitoring, and does not even have mininum creek flow for discharge. Nitrogen is a persistent contaminant that even in low concentrations threatens the health of people who drink the water. The City’s proposed discharge would significantly contribute nitrogen and phospherous to Onion Creek, creating algae blooms and a mucked-up creek for miles.

The City’s stated intention is not to discharge all the wastewater, but to re-use much of it for irrigation, while maintaining flexibility to discharge. Intentions are not commitments, and future Councils will not be politically or legally bound by the intentions of others. The City could protect our creeks/wells by providing adequate storage during wet weather to avoid discharging when irrigation is not possible. Today there are 1.2 million gallons/day of already permitted no-discharge wastewater capacity in the Dripping Springs area; we are not out of capacity. There is time to develop the infrastructure for a no-discharge wastewater solution. The City has also said that eventually this will be a multi-million gpd regional wastewater treatment plant. Protect Our Wells is asking the City to get started right, and to plan for always making the best and highest use of wastewater generated in our area, which means re-using it all for irrigation, using storage during times of heavy rain, and committing to a no-discharge solution!

Please attend the public meeting Nov. 10 to urge the City to protect our water – and our health. Visit www.protectourwaternow.org 

Wesley.Pitts@usi.com

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