On October 11, Save Barton Creek Association and five other environmental organizations sent a letter to the Austin City Council urging them not to allow treated sewage discharge into Onion Creek. Read the press release and letter below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Coalition of Six Local Environmental Groups Urge City of Austin Not to Allow Treated Sewage Discharge into Onion Creek
The City of Dripping Springs (DS) has applied for a direct discharge wastewater permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to discharge treated sewage into Onion Creek. TCEQ already issued a draft permit which would allow DS to discharge 995,000 gallons per day into the Creek, which supplies 40% of Barton Springs flow.
Six environmental organizations wrote to the Austin City Council on Tuesday urging COA not to settle with DS unless the result was no direct discharge into the Creek. (See letter below.) The Coalition is comprised of Save Barton Creek Association, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club (Austin Regional Group), Save Our Springs Alliance, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Protect Our Water (Hays County). Steve Beers, Co-President of Save Barton Creek Association, says, “We’ve reason to believe that the City of Austin is trying to settle with Dripping Springs to allow some degree of sewage discharges into Onion Creek.”
He continues, “Prior City policy has opposed any direct discharge of treated effluent into streams crossing the Barton Springs Zone, because of negative effects to the Springs, Creek, and private wells. We are asking them to persist in opposing all such direct discharges and to keep trying to win a better outcome for our citizens.”
TCEQ has already gotten 870 public comments, an unusually high number, from concerned citizens. Currently, TCEQ is taking additional comments from the public leading up to a November 10 public hearing in Dripping Springs. The coalition is trying to activate Austin residents since the water in Onion Creek flows into Austin and recharges the aquifer that feeds into Barton Springs.
David Foster, State Director of Clean Water Action explains, “Sewage discharge into Onion Creek is a huge threat to Barton Springs. This is one of the most pressing threats facing the aquifer today. If a settlement is reached that allows direct discharge into Onion Creek it will mean a new paradigm in development in Hays County where developments expect to be allowed to pollute the Creek ”
The threat from this pollution is not just recreational. Sarah Faust of Protect Our Water explains,
“The segment of Onion Creek immediately downstream of the proposed discharge is pristine and very beautiful. A direct discharge would forever alter the water quality of the creek and the wildlife habitat it provides. This is also a drinking water issue for area residents. There is much more groundwater science that needs to be done, but recent studies show strong evidence that Onion Creek recharges the Trinity Aquifer immediately downstream of the proposed wastewater discharge point. There are over a hundred domestic water wells, in addition to the main wells of the Dripping Springs Water Supply Corp., that are in the potential flow path and threatened to be adversely affected by pollutants from the proposed discharge of wastewater effluent.”
Opposition to the wastewater discharge goes beyond the groups that signed the letter to COA. The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District have also spoken out against the plan. Save Barton Creek Association is asking City of Austin residents to write to their City Council members and TCEQ at www.savebartoncreek.org/onioncreekeffluent. There will also be a Rally for Onion Creek on Friday, October 28th at 5 pm at Barton Springs Pool.
Contact: Angela Richter, Interim Director, Save Barton Creek Association
Full Letter to City Council below.
October 11, 2016
To: City of Austin City Council, Mayor Steve Adler, Interim City Manager Elaine Hart
Re: Negotiations Regarding Dripping Springs Direct Discharge Permit into Onion Creek
Save Barton Creek Association and all the undersigned organizations are deeply concerned about the negotiations between the City of Austin (COA) and the City of Dripping Springs (DS) regarding Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) draft permit to allow 995,000 gallons of treated effluent to be dumped into Onion Creek, the source of 40 percent of the water flow at Barton Springs.
We appreciate that COA’s intention in negotiations with DS is to lessen water quality impact. However, we ask that the City not settle with DS for anything less than zero direct discharge. Responsible land application of all effluent is feasible. Land application may include beneficial reuse which has additional water conservation benefit.
If a settlement agreement is reached between COA and DS that allows more discharge than the amount permitted for the community of Belterra, it will set a new precedent whereby other development in Hays County will likely also try to discharge effluent directly into our creeks.
Allowing any discharge into Onion Creek is likely to cause a domino effect whereby the aggregate impacts will significantly degrade water quality in Onion Creek, Barton Springs Pool, and Lady Bird Lake– potentially to hazardous levels for recreation, drinking water, and ecosystems. This will undermine the tireless work we have all done since before the original SOS ordinance to protect water quality in Barton Springs and in all of our watersheds.
Settling with DS does not adhere to the City’s multiple previous resolutions opposing any direct discharge in the recharge zone and contributing zone. Rather than settle for something weaker than no direct discharge, we ask that the City of Austin be a party to a contested case hearing on DS’s TCEQ permit. This will allow more time for negotiations to really achieve what is best for our springs, aquatic environments, and citizens.
We strongly urge you to only enter into negotiations with Dripping Springs if the result is 0% direct discharge. We also urge you to pursue a contested case hearing. Finally, please issue any proposed settlement in draft form first, allowing time for citizen comment on this important issue.
Save Barton Creek Association
Clean Water Action
Sierra Club, Austin Regional Group
Save Our Springs Alliance
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
Richard Beggs, Wesley Pitts, Jeff Shaw
Board of Directors
Protect Our Water (Hays County)