Curious Development Afoot Over Aquifer
Proposed development in sensitive recharge zone prompts requests for contested case hearing with commission charged with reviewing developer's land application permit
By Jacob Cottingham, Fri., March 28, 2008
Growing concerns over a proposed subdivision in northern Hays Co. have prompted a state representative and other officials and citizens to seek a contested case hearing with the state agency charged with reviewing the developer's land application permit. The proposed development, along FM 967 in the sensitive recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, seeks authorization of 330,480 gallons of treated domestic wastewater per day via surface irrigation of more than 122 acres of public-access land. The permit application, filed in January by Jeremiah Venture LP, has received four requests for a contested case hearing, as well as two formal requests for a public meeting.
In a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, wrote, "Constituents that reside near the proposed [wastewater treatment] facility have contacted my office and expressed concerns about the possible impact to water quality." His request triggered an automatic hearing, with a date yet to be scheduled, and extended the comment period until that time. Rose did not return phone calls seeking additional comments.
At issue is the proposed disposal of wastewater for 1,377 homes planned on 607 acres of the Hudson Ranch; the concern is that disposing of the sewage by spraying irrigation will allow sewage effluent – one of the top pollutants of Barton Springs – to seep into the aquifer.
The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District also points out that the developer has yet to file a water pollution abatement plan detailing where the development would get its water. District board member Mary Stone, whose Precinct 1 includes the area in question, is expected to meet soon with the developer's engineer and someone from the Lower Colorado River Authority.
The homeowners associations and water-supply corporations of the nearby Ruby Ranch and Oak Forest neighborhoods have also requested public hearings on the development. Like other area homeowners, Oak Forest resident Clover Clamons is concerned about the development's impact on drinking water. "We are entirely tied to a well-based system," said Clamons, a geologist. "Anything that has the potential to impact the aquifer up gradient of us has the potential of impacting our wells and our neighborhood." After reading the developer's geological assessment and proposed water-treatment permit, Clamons said she was startled by the lack of information in the geological report as well as by "the precedent that this type of permit would set for allowing aerial discharge in the recharge zone."
Clamons says the strong reaction the development has provoked was spurred on by the developer's own tactics – the permit notice was posted in the San Marcos newspaper, rarely read by her neighbors in northern Hays County. She believes that move was intended to avoid scrutiny and has thus heightened suspicions.
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.