February 20, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State May Allow Landowners, Citizens to Fight Dripping Sewage Plans
(AUSTIN) – A state agency is considering who can challenge a controversial plan allowing Dripping Springs to dump nearly a million gallons of treated sewage a day into Onion Creek, a major source of water for Austin’s famous Barton Springs.
The Dripping Springs city government contends only very few individuals living near the sewage plant are affected. This sets the stage for a battle to be waged before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and in the courts over who has “standing” to be heard in the pollution case.
TCEQ’s governing board will make a decision on who can participate in the case at its March 7th public meeting. If anyone gets excluded, they can sue in civil court to be admitted into the process. This could be the opening skirmish in a long legal struggle.
Once the groups that have standing are decided, TCEQ will hear arguments for and against the proposed sewage permit. The state agency can then either grant or deny the permit or change its terms.
Several citizen groups opposing the discharge scheme are organized under a banner of “No Dripping Sewage.” Coalition members include Save Barton Creek Association, Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Clean Water Action. The campaign at nodrippingsewage.org revolves around a petition against piped sewage into creeks across the region and the slogan “There’s a better way.”
Both the TCEQ executive director and its in-house public interest attorney agree that citizen groups including Save Barton Creek Association, Save Our Springs Alliance, Protect Our Water, and some Hays County residents are “affected persons” who should be allowed into the process.
However, agency officials disagree among themselves about whether some local governments should be heard. The director would exclude Austin’s city government, and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) that protects groundwater.
The TCEQ Office of Public Interest Counsel (OPIC) disagrees, saying both Austin and BSEACD should be allowed to state their case before the commission’s governing board.
Clark Hancock, president of Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA) says “Half a million visits to Barton Springs each year demonstrate that this special place is near and dear to the people of Austin and beyond.”
“All legitimate interests need to be included in the TCEQ hearings,” Hancock said. “A full airing of issues before the commission is needed for the credibility of the process and to avoid other litigation. We want to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved—including Dripping Springs.”