Dripping Springs chamber supports city discharge plan

The Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind the city of Dripping Springs’ wastewater expansion plan and discharge permit application, according to a release.

But the announcement, which was made Monday, came after Protect our Water (POW) released a letter written by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) asking the EPA to consider a no-discharge solution after review of Dripping Springs’ permit.

According to the city’s release, the chamber board Feb. 21 approved a recommendation of support from its Economic Development Committee.

Board chair Jason McNutt said in a statement the board considered a variety of factors, including the city’s contracts with Caliterra and Howard Ranch to accept close to 600,000 gallons per day of treated effluent.

They also considered the city’s letter of intent with Scott Roberts, who will accept up to one million gallons of treated effluent for a Driftwood development.

The city in November 2016 also required future developments to incorporate beneficial reuse.

In October 2015, the city applied with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a Texas Pollutant Disposal Elimination System permit for an expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The expansion calls for the plant to have a capacity of up to 995,000 gallons.

“We recognize how much work the city has put into developing a proposal that addresses a critical need of our community,” McNutt said. “It has become abundantly clear how serious the city is about beneficial reuse as opposed to discharge.”

The chamber’s support comes after the City of Austin’s Watershed Department modeled the city’s proposed beneficial reuse program, according to the release. Preliminary findings indicated the city’s plan met “criteria by which the city of Austin evaluated potential impacts on the quality of water in Onion Creek.”

“It’s certainly gratifying to receive the support of the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce.  As a city, we are fortunate to have such an active and engaged business community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds. “They know better than anyone the growth we are experiencing and the challenges that come with it.”

According to a POW release, the EPA included the USFW in its review of the city’s draft discharge permit, which was issued by the TCEQ to the city in 2016. The USFW reviewed the permit for potential impacts to endangered species.

In its review, the USFW discovered three federally listed endangered species that are aquifer dependent and could be impacted by proposed discharge within the permit, according to the release.

Two of the species, identified as the Austin Blind and Barton Springs Salamander, inhabit Barton Springs, which according to the USFW obtains 34 percent of its water from Onion Creek.

Other areas of major concern extending to potential discharge include water quality degradation, critical habitat impact and the potential for raw sewage risk.

Rich Beggs, POW director, said it was “an amazing position” by the USFW and he felt it was important as it “calls into question the endangered species in Barton Springs.”

Beggs said he was pleased to see the USFW comment on “contaminants of emerging concern,” which he said are items in effluent, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, that don’t go through treatment.

While Beggs said POW has been encouraged by the city’s due diligence to focus on beneficial reuse, he said the group continues to seek a no-discharge solution.

“Discharge is a problem for us,” Beggs said. “Not only for the endangered species, but also the drinking water. There’s a risk for the community.”

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