Political and Business Leaders Oppose Lake Travis Wastewater Discharge

Leander and Granite Shoals have petitioned TCEQ to lift discharge ban

Austin state Rep. Valinda Bolton and Mayor Lee Leffingwell
Austin state Rep. Valinda Bolton and Mayor Lee Leffingwell (photo by Lee Nichols)

With Lake Austin and Tom Miller Dam as a backdrop, a group of local elected officials and business leaders announced this morning that they stand opposed to a petition by the cities of Leander and Granite Shoals to lift the ban on discharging treated wastewater into the Highland Lakes.

The two cities filed the petition with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, apparently as a way to save money on a new water treatment plant being built (as of this writing, the mayor of Granite Shoals, who serves as the spokesman for this effort, has not called me back).

Led by Austin state Rep. Valinda Bolton, a group including Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Austin state Reps. Elliott Naishtat and Eddie Rodriguez, Laura Mitchell of the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce, and Lakeway Mayor Dave DeOme, said they opposed the petition because Lake Travis serves as a source of drinking water for the region. Also opposing the petition, in letters of opposition, were Austin state Reps. Dawnna Dukes and Donna Howard, state Sen. Kirk Watson, and the village of Volente, and the companies Samsung and Spansion, among others.

Bolton said that although treatment removes bacteria, it does not remove nitrogen and phosphorous, which act as fertilizer that can spawn algae blooms. She said instead, the effluent should be sprayed onto lawns, golf courses, and such, where fertilizer is welcomed.

“While we may not be in control of when, or even if, water will pour from the heavens, it is within our power to control the quality of our water,” Bolton said. “Since the 1980s, there has been a ban on discharging effluent into the Highland Lakes, and as a result, Lake Travis is ranked as one of the four clearest lakes in Texas.”

Bolton pointed out that if the ban is lifted, it would not apply solely to Leander and Granite Shoals, and the 34 permitted wastewater treatment facilities in the Lake Travis watershed would suddenly be able to discharge. (One of the 34 has a grandfathered permit to do so.)

“These cities do not need the ban to be lifted in order to provide water to their citizens or treat their discharge,” Bolton said. “Their desire to keep costs for the new facility down by just $4 million does not justify endangering the health of the lake, the health and livelihood of our citizens, or the health of our businesses, both small businesses and major employers.”

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Environment, Valinda Bolton, Leander, Granite Shoals, waste water

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