State judge sides with Dripping Springs in wastewater permit hearing

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The city of Dripping Springs will proceed with its wastewater permit application after a state judge sided with the city on all 12 issues raised by Save Our Springs Alliance—an Austin-area environmental nonprofit.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings conducted the contested case hearing and concluded that the city’s application for a wastewater permit should be granted, according to a Nov. 26 news release.

The ruling concluded that the draft permit:
• Contains provisions to protect wildlife in the area
• Will protect water quality under applicable Texas Surface Water Quality Standards
• Is protective of groundwater in the area

The decision clears the way for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, to issue a final permit.

“We know we have one last step to take with TCEQ in order to expand our wastewater treatment plant, but today’s SOAH ruling is incredibly important for us,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds in a Nov. 26 news release. “Our responsibility is to care for the citizens of our community, to be good stewards of our environment and to plan for the growth that we know is coming. It would be easy to stick our heads in the sand and avoid making tough decisions; that is not what our city is about.”

In 2015 the city approached the TCEQ seeking a permit to discharge up to 995,000 gallons of treated effluent per day. Since then, environmental groups, wastewater conservation districts and others have protested the permit.

The city of Dripping Springs reached a settlement agreement with all but one designated party—Save Our Springs Alliance—in its effort to obtain a wastewater discharge permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in early July.

“We’re obviously disappointed in the administrative law judge’s recommended decision,” Bill Bunch, Executive Director of Save Our Springs Alliance, told Community Impact Newspaper Nov. 26. “We don’t agree with it.”

Bunch said the organization plans to articulate their objections during the formal briefing process when the judge reads the decision.

The permit will allow the city to begin expansion of its wastewater treatment plant, in order to continue providing for its citizens and to accommodate the rapid residential and commercial growth in the area, Foulds said.

“We knew this process would be challenging and would cause concern among some
stakeholders,” Foulds said. “I am incredibly proud we reached a compromise with just about everyone involved.”

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  1. I thought SOS still owed Dripping Springs around $80,000 (plus interest) from the last time it pursued frivolous legal action against the city.

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Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Jackson Buchanan is the Senior Reporter for Southwest Austin. She covers local transportation, development, education, healthcare and Travis County Commissioners Court. She has a bachelor's and master's degree from The University of Texas and has been with Community Impact Newspaper since May 2018.
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