EPA greenlights Dripping Springs discharge permit

Citing resolution of potential environmental concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn its interim objection to Dripping Springs’ proposed wastewater discharge permit.

The decision comes after the EPA determined the city’s proposal “successfully meets the environmental governing body’s rigorous standards,” according to a city press release.

In December 2016, the EPA filed the interim letter of objection citing six issues in Dripping Springs’ proposed permit, which is meant to expand the city’s wastewater system.

The letter stated it wasn’t clear how the city’s permit conformed with guidelines and requirements of the Clean Water Act. The News-Dispatch reported some concerns the EPA had regarding the phosphorous levels of potential treated effluent that could be discharged into Onion Creek.

Dripping Springs in October 2015 filed a Texas Pollutant Disposal Elimination System (TPDES) permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to expand the city’s wastewater system to 995,000 gallons per day. The permit called for the potential to discharge treated effluent into Walnut Springs, a tributary of Onion Creek.

In a letter to the TCEQ, which was given to the city last week, the EPA found contributions from non-point sources might have a larger impact on nutrient additions to Onion Creek than treated effluent or discharge. Non-point sources include runoff from bordering fields.

The EPA’s letter also stated a wastewater facility would “contribute significantly fewer pollutants, nutrients” to Onion Creek than individual septic systems, which are used by homes in the area.

Dripping Springs’ focus on reusing treated effluent for subsurface irrigation would decrease the amount discharged into Onion Creek, according to the EPA’s letter.

That includes contracts the city has with the Caliterra and the Howard Ranch subdivisions to accept close to 600,000 gallons per day of treated effluent. The city also received a letter of intent from Driftwood developer Scott Roberts, who plans to accept up to 1 million gallons of treated effluent.

“With the significant amount of population growth in this area, EPA believes having a wastewater treatment facility is necessary to maintain the high quality waters in Onion Creek,” according to the EPA’s letter.

Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell said it’s “incredibly gratifying” to receive the feedback from the EPA.

“The country’s leading environmental regulatory agency has validated the hard work we’ve put in to develop the most environmentally sensitive plan for expansion possible,” Purcell said. “I hope this signals to our community how committed we truly are to doing everything we can to protect our community’s quality of life.”

Dripping Springs will continue to work with TCEQ, as well as to meet with stakeholders in the region, according to the release.

“I think EPA took note of how stringent our permit requirements are and how committed we are to beneficial reuse,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds in a statement. “We’ve conducted years of research to identify this proposed plan as the best option to meet our growing wastewater needs. We’ve done our homework.”

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