Wimberley Water Reclamation Plant Proposal
Cypress Creek, below the Ranch Road 12/Cypress Creek Bridge in central Wimberley, is polluted with raw sewerage that seeps from old, failing downtown septic systems. The City has signs posted at the bridge warning against any human contact with the water, an alarming message to any resident or tourist.
In 2013, after many years of failed attempts by different groups to resolve the problem, the City took over planning of a sewer collection and treatment system for the downtown area, and appointed a Citizens Stakeholder Committee to analyze issues related to design and funding. That committee eventually agreed on and unanimously endorsed a system plan now in a preliminary engineering design phase.
Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development congratulates the City on its decision to address pollution oozing from the failing septic tanks on the Square. Halting that pollution is urgent, not just to protect Wimberley's vital tourist business, but because the situation is an unhealthy and shameful environmental hazard. The proposed sewer system is meant to halt the current toxic and malodorous situation.
The City has submitted to TCEQ an application for a permit for the sewer project and is now waiting to receive from TCEQ its draft permit for the project incorporating elements desired by the City as shown in its application. If all goes as planned, the system would be in operation by mid-2016.
The plan directly impacts the central business area, Blue Hole Regional Park - which will look to the plant for irrigation - as well as Cypress Creek and the Blanco River. Indirectly it impacts the Wimberley Valley area in many ways. In the plan, a sewer collection system in the central business area would take sewage water to a plant located at the northeast side of Blue Hole Park.
The City's plan produces Type 1 (safe for human contact) effluent from the plant to irrigate all of Blue Hole Park. The plan sent to TCEQ includes a request for a discharge permit, to be able to release the Type 1 effluent into Deer Creek in times of extreme rainfall events when the effluent cannot be used for irrigation and the 500,000 gallon effluent storage tank is full. It is anticipated this may happen 3 to 5 times per year, when area creeks and the Blanco River will be flowing full. The City should do whatever possible to formalize this minimal discharge, so that it cannot be overridden by any future city administration.
In addition to supplying irrigation to all of Blue Hole Park, one of the City's most important proposals is to conserve our area's precious and threatened aquifer water by reusing treated water from the plant. Through return pipes, the plant would send the Type 1 cleaned water back to downtown for non-drinking purposes such as flushing toilets and irrigating the landscaping in the Square.
The more recycled water the system employs, the less water will be pulled from our aquifer. To do this, the City will have to commit, before the work begins, to pay a bit more for the downtown sewer work in order to lay both out-going sewage pipe and in-coming "purple pipe." By spending a little more to do this at the same time the new outgoing pipes are installed, the City will save a lot of aquifer water, and also a great deal of money that would be required to add purple pipe later.
CARD supports the City in working to resolve the downtown sewage problem, and urges it to continue every effort to create the most efficient, clean and environmentally safe system possible. In addition to those who support the current plan, there are others who feel the plan should be better and some who are against it all together. No plan will accommodate every concern, purpose and budget, but continued informed cooperation is the best way to insure a great plan. We encourage the City to be open to practical suggestions to make the plant as beneficial as possible to all the area's citizens, both inside and outside the city limits.
The City's permit request, a 151-page 14.8 MbPDF document, can be found at www.cityofwimberley.com/ under the title "City of Wimberley's Application for Major Amendment to Permit No. WQ0013321001 submitted to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)."
Citizens can make written public comments on the permit by August 25, 2014 and submit them to the Chief Clerk, MC 105, TCEQ, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087 or electronically at www.tceq.state.tx.us/about/e-comments.html.