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Dripping Springs receives draft discharge permit

Friday, September 30, 2016 by Jo Clifton

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued a draft permit to the city of Dripping Springs allowing the city to discharge 995,000 gallons of effluent per day into Walnut Springs Creek, a tributary of Onion Creek, within the Caliterra subdivision. According to a press release from Dripping Springs, “A component of the permit will allow the City to deliver recycled water to beneficial reuse customers for irrigation of open areas, parks, sports fields and eventually for direct potable reuse. The wastewater treatment and reuse pump station will be located at 23127 RM 150.” Now that the draft permit has been issued, members of the public and other interested parties, including the city of Austin, will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed permit. There will be a public meeting on the permit in Dripping Springs on Nov. 10, 7 p.m., at Dripping Springs Ranch Park, 1042 Event Center Drive, in the Special Events Venue Room. According to the city’s press release, “Once the permit is issued, it will be one of the strictest of its kind in the State of Texas, according to TCEQ’s rules for effluent limitations, monitoring requirements and other conditions set forth.” There certainly will be arguments about whether the permit is stringent enough. Chris Herrington, water resource evaluation section manager for Austin’s Watershed Protection Department, said Thursday that the permit for the Belterra subdivision, which is also in Hays County, is stricter. The Belterra permit contains a limit on total nitrogen, which the draft permit for Dripping Springs lacks, he said. The effluent from Belterra is also dechlorinated, Herrington said, and there are restrictions on when Belterra can release its effluent. Those things do not seem to be in the Dripping Springs draft permit, he said. Herrington concluded, “We strongly support them using the effluent, but will they be able to use all the effluent all the time? We haven’t seen that information yet but are continuing to have discussions with Dripping Springs.” Dripping Springs has asked opponents of the discharge to help pay for the infrastructure it would use for irrigation. That proposal did not go over well with numerous residents of Hays County, some of whom have formed a group called Protect Our Water, which has pledged to fight the permit at the TCEQ. Given the lengthy process, the final hearing will likely be in the spring. The group has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to step in as well.

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