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Dripping Springs allowed to discharge treated wastewater into Onion Creek tributary

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the permit application, after several organizations protested the discharge. Dripping Springs city leaders say it's needed for growth and intend to sell the water to developers.

AUSTIN, Texas — After four years of planning and fighting, the City of Dripping Springs will be allowed to dump treated wastewater into an Onion Creek tributary.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the permit Wednesday morning.

"The permit includes an initial Interim Phase I that allows the discharge of 399,000 gallons per day and an Interim Phase II that allows the discharge of 497,500 gallons per day until the expansion of the wastewater treatment facility to the final phase," TCEQ Media Relations Specialist Andrew Keese, Ph.D. said.

Several organizations protested the permit throughout the years. 

"Save Our Springs Alliance" continued the fight the whole way, testifying against the application in the TCEQ hearing.

The KVUE Defenders canoed down onion creek in 2016.

The Defenders reported how state regulators show a long history of wastewater violations in our area.

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Credit: kvue
Children enjoying the water in Onion Creek in 2016.

However, TCEQ leaders said the Dripping Springs permit is one of the most stringent in the state.

The administrative law judge said the draft permit will protect water quality and not harm any downstream areas, such as Barton Springs, under the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards.

Dripping springs city leaders say they don't intend on discharging at all. It's only a back-up option and is needed for growth.

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"With today’s permit from the TCEQ, the City now has plans to move into the design and construction phases of the plant expansion, which could take up to two years. A Utility Commission has been created and we are in the process of soliciting applications from community members to serve on the Commission," Dripping Springs Deputy City Administrator Ginger Faught said in a statement to the Defenders.

"Please keep in mind, Dripping Springs remains focused on reuse and has signed contracts with various developments in the area to accept essentially all of the treated effluent that will be produced by the city’s wastewater facility. In January the City Council approved a Reuse Agreement with a golf course development in Driftwood that has brought the City’s commitment for reuse in excess of the new agreed-upon allowable maximum of 822,500 gallons per day. For context, the City now produces approximately 130,000 gallons per day; it is anticipated that the proposed expansion will accommodate the City for the next decade," Faught said.

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TCEQ also ordered "Save Our Springs" to pay Dripping Springs $1,000 for hearing transcript costs.

The KVUE Defenders continues to watch what areas are allowed to discharge treated wastewater into our streams and rivers.

“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.  We knew this process would be challenging and would cause legitimate concerns among some stakeholders. But, we’ve worked hard with everyone, and I think the outcome demonstrates that we did our homework and have been willing to compromise along the way.”

“I am so incredibly proud of this City Council, for having the vision and thick skin to move forward with this process. It was not the most popular decision to request a discharge permit,” said Faught. “But our Council left no stone unturned and vetted our options in every way possible, from environmental and financial to community impact and long-term sustainability. I truly believe what we are doing here in Dripping Springs will serve as a model for municipalities throughout the state.”


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