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EPA Review Results in Major Modification

to Dripping Springs Draft Permit

Press Release

For Immediate Distribution

July 10, 2017 – DRIPPING SPRINGS, TX

After an unprecedented review by the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), initial, interim objections have been withdrawn after major revisions were incorporated into Dripping Springs’ Draft Wastewater Permit initially issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Last fall Protect Our Water (“POW”) petitioned EPA and successfully achieved an Interim Objection to TCEQ’s review of Dripping Springs’ propped wastewater discharge. Nine months later, TCEQ has responded to EPA by stating it will now require Dripping Springs to:

  • Include Total Nitrogen Limit of 6 mg/L in the wastewater effluent.  As initially issued by TCEQ, there was no total nitrogen limit and POW vehemently opposed because this could have been harmful to human health if the effluent got into groundwater.  This new limit is intended to better protect groundwater that is used for drinking water by public water systems and private wells.
  • Dechlorination is now required of the effluent prior to discharge.  As initially issued by TCEQ, there was no dechlorination requirement and this could have been harmful to wildlife in/along Onion Creek.

TCEQ is now allowed to take the permit off the EPA-imposed “hold” status it has been on and proceed with the remaining public participation aspects of the permit review process, first by issuing a “Response to Comment” and revised Draft Permit, which will respond to the over 1,000 comments in opposition to the discharge raised by the public and 81 requests for contested case hearing filed by potentially affected persons. Following that process, the TCEQ will consider referring the matter for a contested case hearing, a trial-like procedure. Because Dripping Springs’ proposed wastewater discharge will still endanger Onion Creek, the Trinity Aquifer and endangered species habitat, POW will continue to oppose this permit and encourage Dripping Springs to adopt a 100% beneficial re-use solution.

Even with the improvements the discharge proposal will still degrade Onion Creek and is severely lacking in adequate protective measures. Although the total nitrogen limit and dechlorination requirement are improvements, nutrient loads in Onion Creek would still increase dramatically due to the effluent discharge. Modeling by POW’s water quality expert, Dr. Lauren Ross, and the City of Austin shows that under TCEQ’s proposed terms, total nitrogen in Onion Creek would increase from 37 lbs. per year to 18,000 lbs. per year with the effluent discharge and total phosphorous would increase from a pound per year to 450 lbs. per year. Effluent discharge could occur when Onion Creek flow is zero, resulting in no effluent dilution and depending on creek flow, Onion Creek would be composed of 20% to 98% wastewater effluent just downstream from Dripping Springs’ discharge point. Dripping Springs has stated that it intends to re-use much of the effluent for irrigation, mitigating the impacts to Onion Creek, but to date has not agreed to any legally binding limits on its ability to discharge. Read TCEQ’s response to EPA here and EPA’s letter here.

About POW.

POW is a citizen’s group organized to protect Onion Creek and local wells from pollution. For more information, see Press contact: or Richard Beggs, 512-299-3442.

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