After a grueling campaign with property owners and water conservation groups over its proposed permit, Dripping Springs can now expand its wastewater treatment plant.
On Wednesday, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Commissioners approved the city’s requested wastewater permit which, if needed, allows Dripping Springs to discharge up to 825,500 gallons per day (GPD) of treated effluent into a tributary of Onion Creek.
However, city leaders were adamant that the city never intends to discharge and has worked to expand its treated effluent storage capacity so it wouldn’t have to do so. City officials said the city currently produces approximately 130,000 GPD, and the permit would accommodate the city’s wastewater needs for the next decade.
“This is a historic day for the City of Dripping Springs and our community. We have been at this for more than seven years, but it has all been worth it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds. “Our responsibility is to care for our citizens and protect our natural resources while planning for the growth that we know is coming. We could have stayed with traditional treatment options and avoided making tough decisions; that is not what our city is about.”
Foulds said the city acknowledged obtaining the permit had been a challenge as it caused legitimate concerns among area stakeholders.
Foulds cited a contested case hearing filed against the permit through the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
In July 2018, the city reached a settlement agreement with parties in the contested case that included negotiations which lowered the amount of water the city could discharge. However, the Save Our Springs Alliance (SOS) did not join the settlement and fought the city through the hearings.
In November 2018, SOAH recommended approval of the permit to TCEQ with settlement agreements intact. The original application to TCEQ called for the city to discharge up to 995,000 GPD.
Since the hearing, the city has actively looked for additional ways to store the treated wastewater to ensure it wouldn’t have to discharge.
On July 19, 2018, The News-Dispatch reported that a new mixed-use development approved by city leaders would include a number of retention ponds that will serve the city’s wastewater storage efforts.
Now that the permit is approved, city leaders anticipate that design and construction phases of the plant’s expansion could take roughly two years.