Aquifer district to phase in EP pumping

Phasing in how much water a Houston-based firm could obtain from the Trinity Aquifer was the recommendation handed down by local water entity officials.

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s (BSEACD) general manager and staff  recommended a plan for Electro Purification’s (EP) pumping permit, which originally called for 2.5 million gallons per day of water to be pumped from the Trinity Aquifer.

The report, which is a mix of scientific data evaluation and proposed recommendations, calls for phased permitting, compliance monitoring plans, impact avoidance plans and a mitigation plan.

BSEACD’s report calls for a phased pumping plan, where Phase I calls for .5 million gallons a day in the initial authorized production. The recommendation was made because of the possibility of a negative impact to the aquifer with EP’s request to pump immediately 2.5 million gallons a day.

“We felt like the large amount of groundwater requested could not be granted just as a single phase due to the high probability to unreasonable impact within a two-mile radius of pumping,” said BSEACD General Manager Kirk Holland. “Those impacts can be avoided and minimized.”

According to the report, the general manager will consider authorizing additional phases of production from the well field, conditioned on the permittee requesting the next phase of production, authorized by the BSEACD.

Phase II would allow for one million gallons a day, Phase III at 1.5 million gallons a day, and Phase IV at 2.5 million gallons a day.

Groundwater in the state of Texas is privately owned which plays into the problem with the district’s decision to authorize a permit.

Holland said that, because the water is privately owned, not authorizing some sort of permit would create legal difficulties.

“The board would ultimately be hard pressed to say, ‘you can’t produce groundwater under your property, or leased property,’” Holland said. “We need to look at what provisions could allow for pumping in a way that protects the resources of other people that have private property rights in the area.”

Because of the limited historical data available, the district is unable to evaluate long-term, regional components of the unreasonable impact, the report said. However, the district will work towards developing the tools and collecting the data necessary for long-term evaluation.

These long-term studies include the compliance monitoring, impact avoidance and mitigation plan. The compliance monitoring plan calls for monitoring a well network that utilizes an index and triggers to ensure that the Cow Creek and Lower Glen Rose Formations of the Trinity Aquifer will not be dewatered, the report said.

The plan also includes the installation of monitoring wells to measure drawdown and water quality around the EP well field.

What’s next

Within 10 days of the report published by BSEACD, EP must submit a public notice in the local newspapers, which is then followed by a 20-day public comment period. This public comment period could lead to a party requesting a contested case hearing through the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).

At the earliest, the permit could go before the BSEACD board of directors in August. However, the timeline is dependent on EP’s public notice and the public comments associated with the permit.

“We’ve certainly already seen the citizen outcry,” Holland said. “I think it’s reasonable to assume that a contested case hearing could be on the way.”

The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA), a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect the Trinity and Edwards Aquifer, has a team reviewing the report and did not have a comment at the publication of this article.

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