Wimberley Town Hall Meeting about
Electro Purification Project
An emotional and concerned crowd of an estimated 500 Wimberley Valley citizens packed the Wimberley Community Center Tuesday evening to hear and be heard on the Electro Purification Inc. (EP) plan to drill wells and export 5.3 million gallons of groundwater each day from the middle Trinity Aquifer. The Town Hall meeting was called by State Representative Jason Isaac, District 45, in response to massive outcries and petitions from citizens throughout the Wimberley area fearful of their wells going dry and their property being devalued.
Citizens gathered outside the Community Center signing petitions protesting the EP plan and asking for legislative action to stop the “water grab.” Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) reported that more than 450 petitions protesting the EP plan were signed. Several thousand print and online petitions, from CARD and others had already been signed and mailed or emailed to the elected officials. When the doors opened at 6 pm citizens immediately filled every seat and stood packed along every wall and corner of Johnson Hall. Many others, coming later, were unable to get into the crowded meeting. Handmade signs protesting the EP plan and calling for action plastered the walls.
Isaac opens meeting
Representative Isaac opened the meeting, asking for civility. He announced that representatives of Electro Purification were in attendance, as well as the planned purchasers of the water EP proposes selling: the city of Buda, and the Anthem sub-division development near Mountain City. No one from a third EP customer, the Goforth Water Special Utility District, came to the meeting.
Isaac noted that he had recently introduced HB 1191, a statewide bill to cover zones where groundwater pumping was unregulated. He also noted that he has advertised for bills to adjust the territory and authority of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD). Download those bills along with his bills related to incentives for rainwater collection from the sidebar on the right.
The meeting began with a presentation by John Dupnik, General Manager of the BSEACD, who outlined the role of groundwater conservation districts and the procedures his district used to manage groundwater pumping including the Desired Future Conditions (DFC) of the aquifer and the Modeled Available Groundwater (MAG) resulting from the DFC. He then introduced Brian Hunt, Senior Hydrogeologist with the BSEACD, who described the technical aspects of groundwater management and the work he is doing to define the potential impacts of the EP high-volume pumping. Hunt is installing pressure sensors in area wells and will record the effect of pump tests done by EP drillers. This will help to assess and project long-term impacts. Hunt noted that this study will require several months to complete.
Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams then spoke and explained the reasons his city had agreed to sign a contract with EP, and the alternative water supplies they had investigated to meet the city’s projected need for an additional one million gallons per day (mgd) by 2017. Williams noted that Buda has not signed the contract with EP and will include “mitigation” in its considerations prior to signing. He introduced the city’s consultant engineer Drew Hardin (LAN) who explained the work his firm has undertaken for Buda. He introduced Bob Harden, hydrogeologist, who spoke to the “Due Diligence” report his firm has done for Buda (available on the city of Buda website). Harden said he felt this EP project would have minimal negative impact on area wells, but said longer-term impacts would still need to be evaluated. Harden’s evaluation was met with vocal skepticism by the audience.
Clark Wilson, developer of the proposed densely-developed Anthem subdivision of 2,500 upscale homes to be built near Mountain City, described his project and noted the water requirements of the state water code. Wilson hopes to get a legislatively-authorized municipal utility district (MUD) to help with the development of his project. In later comments, Representative Isaac said he would look at the Anthem MUD request, but had questions about its water supply and density. Anthem wants 1.3 mgd from the EP project.
Tim Throckmorton, manager and founder of Electro Purification, spoke briefly about his company’s role in meeting the water needs of central Texas communities through his various projects. He explained that he had met with a long list of area officials about their water needs and agreed to develop this project to help meet those needs. He noted that he had met with Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley in 2011. Kaveh Khorzad, P.G., President and Senior Hydrogeologist for Wet Rock Groundwater Services, said that they were drilling test wells for EP to determine the ability of the Trinity Aquifer in this location to supply groundwater needed to meet the contractual requirements of 5.3 mgd.
Commissioner Conley then spoke pointedly about his concerns with the proposed EP project and said that the area did not want EP and, in so many words, said they should stop this project and go away, to the enthusiastic delight of the audience. He challenged the EP claim that he had been informed about the project in 2011 saying he had met with someone and had a very general conversation about area water needs. Conley said he, along with many area officials and citizens, only became aware of the details of the EP project when active drilling began in late 2014 along FM 3237.
Representative Isaac then opened with written citizen questions. He noted that he had received over 90 emailed questions and had 20+ written questions from the floor. He sorted through the questions and asked the various officials to respond. The citizen questions were direct and hard-hitting. They focused on finding a way to stop the EP project and the impacts the pumping would have on their wells and property values. Some questions related to proposed legislation to control EP’s project. Questions were also asked about funding for the groundwater conservation districts. Isaac said he will not consider any taxing authority, but will be discussing production fees. He planned to meet with the two conservation districts on February 11th. Isaac said that Texas Senators Donna Campbell, District 25, and Judith Zaffirini, District 21, were on board with his proposals.
Questions from the floor were invited. Passions were high and vividly expressed. Citizens said something must be done to stop or control the EP project. The antiquated Texas “Rule of Capture” was questioned; Isaac said he thought no changes would be possible.
Other notable attendees included: Krista Heiden, Senior Policy Analyst for Senator Campbell; Texas Water Development Board Commissioner Bech Bruun; Wimberley Mayor Steve Thurber, city council members and the city manager; BSEACD President Mary Stone and board members; HTGCD President Linda Kaye Rogers and board members; County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant; City of Woodcreek city council members; City of Buda city council members and city attorney; Hays Caldwell PUA Executive Director Graham Moore; Pedernales Electric Coop President Patrick Cox and PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker and Andrew Sansom, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University in San Marcos.
Despite the extreme concern of many of the attendees over the possible personal loss of water and property values created by the EP drilling, the large audience, while occasionally expressing their emotions, followed Representative Isaac’s call for civility, standing up for their rights in the best American and Texas traditions of Democracy.
Check this website (hayscard.org) and the SaveOurWells (saveourwells.com) website to stay current with future meetings to attend, new articles, and other action steps you can take.
- CARD Steering Committee