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SOS Director urges city to reconsider closing Green plant

Monday, December 22, 2008 by Austin Monitor

In ceremonies earlier this week, city leaders officially brought operations at the Green Water Treatment Plant to a halt after 83 years. The plant is to be disassembled and the location will become part of a Downtown development.


However, at least one Austinite regrets that the city is shutting down the Green plant, and it is not because he is nostalgic. Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Spring Alliance, issued a strongly worded statement this week, saying city officials are making an expensive mistake by not keeping a water treatment plant at that location.


“The move severs Barton Springs from the City’s water supply and moves the City one step closer to spending more than $500 million on the proposed 50 million gallons per day-capacity Water Treatment Plant No. 4 on Lake Travis,” Bunch said. “The City’s move to build the $500 million WTP4 have been challenged by the Austin Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environment Texas, Hill Country Alliance, Save Our Springs Alliance, and others as unnecessary in light of much cheaper and readily available strategies for improving water conservation and reuse.”


Bunch said the coalition of conservation groups specifically request that WTP4 be put on hold for at least three years while the City develops a new comprehensive plan and focuses on water conservation.  


He notes that the Green plant was built in a logical place in 1925 – on the north shore of the Colorado River and immediately downstream of where, on an average day, Barton Springs delivers more than 35 MGD of pure Hill Country spring water.


“City officials have cut off Barton Springs as a source of drinking water for Austin residents,” he said. “The City’s two operating WTPs, Ulrich and Davis, both draw from Lake Austin, upstream of the Barton Creek confluence with the Colorado.”


Bunch says that, ironically, the City’s own engineers on WTP4 proposed rebuilding Green with modern membrane technology in December, 2000, expanding its capacity to 90 MGD and shrinking its footprint to 20 percent of the current size for an estimated $122 million, or one-fourth the estimated cost for WTP4. He said the city rejected that proposal and set out on a path that led to the closure of Green this year.


In closing, Bunch said, “In one move, the City is turning its back on Barton Springs, fiscal responsibility, and common sense.  But with the economic bust, and the zeal Austin citizens have for saving water, there’s time for rational thought and the Green Water Treatment Plant to rise again.”


As impassioned as Bunch’s arguments may be, they are a bit late. In June, the City Council named Trammel Crow as the main contractor to redevelop the area around the Green Treatment Plant.

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