Water district protests discharge permit

After pleas and concerns from residents, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) board of directors unanimously voted Monday to formally protest Dripping Springs’ permit application that could discharge treated wastewater into Onion Creek.

The move comes as a reversal from the groundwater district’s Nov. 13 decision to not file a protest. 

The HTGCD will file a contested case hearing with Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which oversees issuance of wastewater permits.

If TCEQ gives full approval of the discharge permit application, Dripping Springs will be allowed to release up to 995,000 gallons of treated effluent per day into Onion Creek, according to documents obtained from the city.

Earlier this month, the city of Dripping Springs entered into an agreement with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to prioritize reusing the treated effluent via irrigation over land such as parks and street medians, in order to avoid discharge.

Linda Kaye Rogers, HTGCD board president, said the board has been shut out of talks with Dripping Springs. Rogers hopes that protesting could give the board a seat at the table in negotiations.

What the board’s position would be in negotiations has not been determined, Rogers said, and depends in part on the results of an upcoming dye trace test.

The test will be launched in early in December and will help to determine where water flows from Onion Creek.

However, the board varied on what could be acceptable negotiating terms, if it were to enter negotiations with the city.

“If we can get this water treated at a higher standard than it is today, then we’ve done a great job,” Jimmy Skipton, HTGCD board vice president, said.

Doc Jones, District 5 board member, said he didn’t “think we should put (waste) water in the creek, period.”

Rogers said a significant factor in reversing course was the outpouring of telephone calls and emails from residents following the district’s Nov. 13 decision.

Roughly 25 people attended Monday’s board meeting at Dripping Springs City Hall and addressed concerns over the potential negative impacts of discharging effluent into Onion Creek.

Initially, Rogers said her reservation to filing a protest stemmed from the district’s limited resources and its ability to move forward through the process of a contested hearing.

However, Rogers said that without filing a contested hearing, the district would have no legal standing to speak against the city’s permit discharge application

Skipton referred to city of Austin and Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) pledge to provide legal funds to the district in its efforts to protest the city’s discharge permit application.

Rogers said there is a possibility for the board to work with those two entities to protest the permit application.

Rogers added it would be similar to the collaboration in protesting a discharge permit for the Belterra subdivision a few years ago.

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