EPA withdraws objection to Dripping Springs wastewater discharge permit

After months of review, the Environmental Protection Agency has officially withdrawn its objection to a city of Dripping Springs proposal to expand its wastewater treatment facility.

Last September, the city submitted a draft permit to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requesting permission to release 995,000 gallons of wastewater into Onion Creek per day. Following a request by local organization Protect Our Water, the EPA reviewed the proposal and said it was unclear how the permit complied with the Clean Water Act. The EPA requested more information from the TCEQ specifically related to water quality analysis.

In a recent letter to the TCEQ, the EPA said the partial allocation of wastewater toward subsurface irrigation was adequate in reducing the allowable amount of discharge into Onion Creek.

The expanded treatment facility will also reduce the reliance on sub-par individual septic systems used by homes in the area, the agency pointed out.

"Additionally, a wastewater treatment facility will contribute significantly fewer pollutants, nutrients, etc., to Onion Creek than individual septic systems, which are currently being used by existing homes in the area," the letter stated.

Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell expressed his gratitude for the agency's comments.

"It’s incredibly gratifying to receive the kind of feedback we just did from EPA,” said Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell.  “The country’s leading environmental regulatory agency has validated the hard work we’ve put in to develop the most environmentally sensitive plan for expansion possible.  I hope this signals to our community how committed we truly are to doing everything we can to protect our community’s quality of life.”

Protect Our Water board member Richard Beggs said his organization is pleased that the EPA's review  led to some modifications of the city's proposal, including the institution of nitrogen limits and dechlorinization requirements, however, its members still oppose any discharge of any wastewater into Onion Creek.

"We still oppose the permit and urge them [the city of Dripping Springs] to adopt a 100 percent reuse solution," Beggs said. "We think they are in striking distance of making that a reality."

A press release from the city stated the TCEQ process is ongoing, however, this is a significant step forward in bringing the plan to fruition.

"We’ve conducted years of research to identify this proposed plan as the best option to meet our growing wastewater needs," Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds said. "We’ve done our homework.”
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.