Blanco permit change concerns Hays residents

An influx of people is leading the city of Blanco to seek a permit to allow expansion of its wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). 

But the permit is concerning Hays County officials who fear the discharge of up to 1.6 million gallons per day of treated effluent into a point along the Blanco River could have a negative impact downstream.

The permit, submitted on Nov. 10, 2016 by Blanco to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), would allow the discharge of up to 1.6 million gallons per day of treated wastewater.

It’s an amendment to the city’s current permit, which allows Blanco to discharge up to 225,000 gallons per day toward irrigation of 68 acres of non-public land, or to an unnamed ditch located on the upper Blanco River.  

TCEQ executive director Richard Hyde, who retired at the end of April, completed a technical review of the application and prepared a draft permit. If approved, the draft permit will outline new procedures for the city of Blanco for the discharge of effluent.

“The Blanco River is important to Hays County and is embedded in the culture of Wimberley and the city’s economy,” said Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 3 Lon Shell. “That’s our main concern with discharge into the Blanco River.”

Shell said he realized the need for Blanco to grow, but also felt Wimberley and many areas of Hays County have grown to have more respect for the Blanco River. That mindset came after the devastating 2015 Memorial Day flood, which killed 12 people and caused millions of dollars of damage.

As a result, many Hays County residents are still recovering, as is Wimberley, which utilizes the river as a draw for tourism.

“Growth in Central Texas has reached their doorstep and now the city (Blanco) is facing these challenges as best as they can,” Shell said. “It’s not an adversarial relationship. I understand they need to meet the demands for growth. Our concern is that we need to have a say in how this affects our river and aquifer.”

TCEQ is currently seeking public comments and requesting a public hearing as the next step in the permit application process.

A public hearing will be held by TCEQ if the executive director deems there is enough public interest in the application. If granted, there will be an opportunity for a contested case hearing between affected parties and the city of Blanco.

However, the process is still preliminary and no public meeting has been called.

Shawn Cox, city administrator for the city of Wimberley, said the city will not comment about the permit’s proposed change to the rate of discharge to the Blanco River.

The News-Dispatch reached out to the city of Blanco for comment on its WWTP expansion permit, but city officials did not respond prior to press time.

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