EPA says nay: Discharge permit meets with objection, city preps to defend application

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed an interim letter of objection to Dripping Springs’ Texas Pollutant Disposal Elimination System (TPDES) discharge permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

In a letter submitted to the TCEQ, Richard A. Wooster, Acting Associate Director of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES), said it wasn’t clear how the permit conforms to guidelines established by the Clean Water Act and NPDES regulations.

Dripping Springs’ permit calls for the city to construct a new wastewater facility that could discharge up to 995,000 gallons of treated effluent into Walnut Springs, which is a tributary of Onion Creek.

The TCEQ conducted a Tier 2 review of the city’s permit and concluded that the permit would have “no significant degradation of water quality” in Onion Creek, which has been identified as having high aquatic uses.

Some of the major concerns addressed in the letter extend to effluent contributing more than 450 pounds of phosphorous per year in a stream with an annual existing amount of phosphorous of 1 pound per year.

“Additional information is needed from the permittee/TCEQ to show that these increases in Total (phosphorous) and Total (nitrogen) would not negatively impact the receiving waters,” according to Wooster’s letter.

Wooster said additional concerns extend to possible algae growth due to the increase in nutrients in Onion Creek.

The EPA also asked the city and TCEQ to provide appropriate information that shows the findings in the praft permit will enusre the discharge “won’t cause or contribute excessive nutrients to the receiving waters that would violate” requirements under TCEQ’s Tier 1 antidegradation review.

EPA’s letter came as a result of a petition by Protect our Water, a group opposed to the city’s TPDES permit, to review Dripping Springs’ permit.

“The TCEQ and Dripping Springs must now justify the draft permit to the EPA,” according to a POW press release. “POW and EPA’s concerns with the pollution of Onion Creek would be addressed with a legally binding no-discharge plan from the City of Dripping Springs.”

In a press release Tuesday, the city of Dripping Springs acknowledged the EPA is seeking information to “ensure the city’s draft permit conforms to the guidelines and requirements established by the clean water act.

According to the release, the city anticipated the inquiry from the EPA and “will work to provide all requested data.”

“We knew the EPA had an interest in learning more about our permit,” Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell said in a statement. “We will, of course, share any information we have to better inform the decision-making process. We’re committed to being completely transparent and welcome the questions.”

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