Hold That Wastewater!
Effluent flows could cripple three local endangered species
Despite a pending application by the City of Dripping Springs to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a permit to discharge as much as 995,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater into currently pristine Onion Creek, the local fight against the permit continues. The City of Austin officially opposes the permit, and Dripping Springs continues to insist that it would be used only as a last resort – a tentative settlement agreement with Austin promises enough land-for-discharge to make the permit only an emergency alternative. Last week, Dripping Springs environmental group Protect Our Water released a Dec. 22 letter from the Austin office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Environmental Protection Agency, recommending against the pending permit because of the potential for effluent flows into the Edwards Aquifer and eventually Barton Springs – which receives more than a third of its inflows from Onion Creek. The wastewater pollution, the USFWS reports, would present an additional hazard to three endangered species: the Austin blind salamander, the Barton Springs salamander, and the Comal Springs dryopid beetle, and recommends "carefully planned dry land application" of the treated wastewater. In reaction to the USFWS letter, a coalition of six environmental groups (Save Barton Creek Association, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, Save Our Springs Alliance, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Protect Our Water) wrote to the Austin City Council asking Council to direct city staff "to withdraw the settlement proposal and continue negotiations with a goal of no direct discharge." See "EPA Raises Questions About Dripping Springs Wastewater," Dec. 16, 2016.