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Say 'NO' to the Dumping of Treated Wastewater into our Ponds

Updated: Apr 8, 2021



MUST HAVE THE PERMIT # WQ0015594001 Speak from the heart and let them know that you are concerned about this permit because of the excessive algae growth it will cause and the potential harm to wildlife and species that live in our ponds. Also the fact that the levels of pathogenic bacteria and solid particulate matter could be much greater since we are the 'first stop' for this discharge. It will ruin the quality of our ponds and create a smelly and unsightly environment. Do NOT talk about your property value as the TCEQ does not care, unfortunately.

  • Attend next week's TCEQ public meeting on 4/20 at 7PM We need to put as much pressure as possible on the TCEQ and Stephen Cleaveland who will be on the call to answer questions. This is a webinex call, not Zoom, so our faces will not be seen.

MEETING INFO FOR APRIL 20, 7PM: Key talking points for next week’s meeting from SBCA: (Save Barton Creek Association)

  • Harmful

  • Unnecessary

  • Impractical

  • SBCA is hoping to hear community comments on the degradation of culture heritage by allowing this overflow to happen. In other words, not that your property will lose value. More on how this affects use of the ponds.

  • The City of Austin SOS (Save Our Springs) is and has done several studies on how this type of change affects land/wildlife (they take years to complete)

  • At the end they asked that they need as much community awareness as possible and asked that we post info within our community as well as get any public officials anyone may know involved.

Another key point, they did say water flow should NOT increase water levels much as it’s a small amount of water being released at any point in time. They did say, this could be affected possibly during heavier rain. OTHER THINGS WE CAN DO AS A NEIGHBORHOOD:

Both of these organizations are of tremendous help as they fight these fights all the time. They have lawyers and environmental experts with the data needed to persuade the folks at the TCEQ. They need our support and donations, as fighting isn't cheap. Brian Zabcik, who is leading the charge against the permit for the Save Barton Creek Association, has organized a coalition called No Dumping Sewage that includes the Save Our Springs Alliance, Wimberley Valley Water Association, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, Clean Water Action, the Barton Hills Neighborhood Association, the Zilker Neighborhood Association and others.

The simplified version of what's happening is, Stephen Cleaveland has been selling off his land (across the street at Sawyer Ranch and 290), in bits at a time. Now he wants to sell the last portion to build fast food restaurants. He thinks he can have attract a bigger buyer if he is granted the permit to put in a wastewater processing plant. His attitude is that this is the most cost effective measure for him and doesn't seem concerned about the ecological affects on our ponds and Barton Creek, where this water would flow. His request is to dump 42,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater into ditches that would flow through our ponds and then down Barton Creek and into and near Barton Springs. It's not just the amount of water (the amount requested can be changed once he has the permit) that's worrying, it's the quality of the water to our wildlife and ecosystem. These chemicals can cause an explosion of algae growth that can suffocate wildlife and change the chemical makeup of the water. On the months when our ponds are low, the wastewater will just sit there.

As a Board, we are attending meetings and trying to gather as much information as possible at this time about the permit and the affects these chemicals could have on our ponds so that we may report responsibly. Several neighbors have already filed complaints with the TCEQ. Any questions, please direct them to:

Notes from the Apr. 5th call With the Save Barton Creek Alliance.

Why do the reports differ in conclusions about health and environmental impact?

  • The TCEQ report limits the modeling to pathogenic bacteria and solid particulate matter. In this regard, effluent is expected to not contain pathogenic bacteria or solid material above state limits. The CoA report additionally includes nitrogen and phosphate pollution. Taking all 4 criteria into account, the CoA model indicates that there will significant negative impact and this finding is corroborated by evidence of impact in water quality, character, and wildlife at Blanco River, Liberty Hill, and other sites.

  • TCEQ considers this wastewater as treated; CoA considers the effluent as partially-treated sewage due to the non-removal of nitrogen, phosphate, human consumables including pharmaceuticals, and chemicals from household products.

What can we expect in PC?

  • Whatever the reports indicate, the effects will almost certainly be much greater in PC than downstream. Our ponds are the intended first catch-all for all the wastewater. Any nitrogen, phosphate, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals will accumulate in our ponds first.

  • We cannot count on the wastewater to be always clean, nor can we expect that flow limits will be heeded. There is a significant history of system failures and exceedance of flow limits. Historically, there has been minimal enforcement and oversight by TCEQ. Since 2017, 81% of plants violated their permit limits either by excess flow rate for over 20 days or by failed/incomplete treatments. Thus, there is increased risk of raw sewage being dumped into PC. There is a guaranteed increase of algae blooms (which we already know will suffocate pond insects and wildlife and impact the food chain), including toxic blooms.

  • There is significant risk that cumulatively this will render our ponds unusable and devalue properties due to changes in water and land quality.

  • Wastewater will likely continue to flow (promote algae) when our reservoirs are low and creek beds dry. This will then be undiluted wastewater in PC.

What does 42,000 G/day mean?

  • This may turn out to be a somewhat irrelevant number due to (1) nonenforcement of limits and (2) ability to increase limits on permits once approved.

  • Once a permit is approved, limits can be increased quite readily without need to reapply for a new permit nor inform the public. Thus we will have no say into future amounts. The critical part is whether a permit is granted or not.

  • Liberty Hill permit was approved for 100,000 G/day, and now a few years later, the permit is for 3 Million Gallons/day

What else?

  • The Cleveland proposal represents the 3rd permit seeking approval in this area, and may be looking to set a precedent.

  • The motivation for a treatment center that dumps into our neighborhood is unclear. Septic systems are typically more cost-effective, typical for the area, and currently are being used by existing businesses at site.

  • It is further unclear why the model is to dump into PC instead of reuse as land irrigation on own property. Belterra wastewater is fully contained and used for land irrigation.



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