A second City Council Sewer Workshop is scheduled for this Wednesday, Feb. 1, 6 p.m. at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 Ranch Rd 12. We are wondering what key information will be mysteriously forgotten at this one.
CARD Call to Action:
What Some City Council Members
Just Won't Remember
In the January 23 City Council Workshop on the City Sewer System, carefully constructed handouts were passed out with all kinds of "facts" and figures on the cost of the proposed City Wastewater System and the – count them – four possible different Aqua Texas options.
Scads of numbers filled dozens of boxes, representing various costs, all without a single citation of source. These were, we were assured, preliminary figures, so we shouldn’t take them as gospel.
Many of those who asked questions afterward were less concerned with the imaginary numbers presented than with many facts that were left out or misrepresented. This is not transparency.
One of our favorite examples was the revival of the claim that future City Councils could allow discharge. Near the end of the meeting, a City Council Member stated: "This Council, none of us want to discharge, but we cannot control what future Councils or City Fathers of the Future do, as long as we have a permit that allows for discharge."
Technically, that statement can be defended, but everyone on City Council, and anyone following this debate, knows that statement misconstrues the facts in several blatant ways.
In August 2015, acknowledging concerns of people worried about pollution of the Blanco River by the proposed City Wastewater Plant, the City, under the previous City Council and Mayor Steve Thurber, went into extensive negotiations with the representatives of four protesting groups. The resulting "Settlement Agreement" – which you can read here (or download pdf) was signed and fully approved by the mayor and every protestant, including: Gail H. Pigg, President, Blanco River Cypress Creek Water Association (BRCCWA); Steven Jaggers, President, Paradise Valley Property Owners Association; Gina Fulkerson, President, KKP3237, LLC; and Rue Hatfield, Executive Director and Co-Owner, Rocky River Ranch, Inc.
The Settlement includes specific language that ties discharge prevention to the City's TCEQ permit with which future City Councils MUST comply.
This agreement requires the City to put in place several additional protections, all of which ARE REQUIRED for the City’s new plant. These include: a 500,000 gallon storage tank to hold effluent during the rare times when extreme weather conditions – specifically defined in the Settlement – might prevent using the effluent to water Blue Hole Regional Park; expanding irrigation at the park, which can already use more than the plant can produce. (The soccer fields alone need an average of 17,000 gallons a day.)
In addition, the City also agreed to never expand the plant capacity beyond 75,000 gallons per day, and to do extensive monitoring and sampling of the treated wastewater, which will be posted. They agreed to do ultraviolet disinfection instead of chlorine disinfection, and other modernization, making this almost certainly the cleanest wastewater-producing plant in the Texas Hill Country.
Please note: These protections were enacted even though the treated water from the previously planned plant was already to be Type 1 – safe for human contact – and even though it would already have been rare for discharge to be necessary and even though ALL the effluent is urgently needed for Blue Hole Regional Park. (The Park cannot get enough water from Deer Creek of Wimberley nursing home alone, as some Aqua Texas options suggest, and MUST NOT drain this water from our declining Trinity Aquifer.)
So, while it is technically possible, though unlikely, that in some extreme emergency a limited amount of effluent might be discharged into Deer Creek, which goes to the Blanco:
1. Future City Councils cannot make it allowable under any normal conditions.
2. The forecast for how much wastewater will come into the plant is estimated to be, at the start, somewhere between 25,000 to 35,000 gallons a day, and no growth forecast model shows it approaching 60,000 gallons a day for about 20 years. So in effect the 500,000 gallon excess tank would hold well over 10 days of emergency excess.
3. When capacity of any water treatment plant reaches 85% (63,750 gallons in this case), state regulations forbid it to add additional sources of wastewater until a new system can be built or found.
4. Though it has not yet been contracted – it cannot be until there is a decision on the plant – Council members have indicated they would contract to have any excess (if it ever happens) trucked away.
5. Under the emergency conditions in which a rare discharge could be allowed (flooding), the water from the plant would be much cleaner than the dirty river flood water PLUS the dilution factor would be so great that it would not matter anyway, as stated and recorded at City Council.
6. The settlement clearly provides direct remedies citizens can use in case of the City’s failure to comply.
All of City Council and all those raising the phony specter of discharge disaster have every reason to know and remember all of these things. They are not being transparent to pretend otherwise.
Beyond all that, the city sewer system has been under study through 17 City Councils and no Council member has EVER proposed that allowing daily discharge is acceptable. Yet some members of City Council are still perpetuating the fairy tale that the majority of the next City Council might go berserk – or suicidal – and propose regular discharge into the Blanco.
We are being told we should "be scared of your elected local government," those Council Members we vote in and say hello to in the grocery story every day. Yet the same people say we should instead put our trust in the far-off executives of a giant national for-profit corporation that is notorious for taking over small town water systems, jacking up the prices at the first opportunity and building faulty systems that create environmental problems. A company which, by the way, previously applied for a discharge permit into Wilson Creek near River Road – another stream that flows into the Blanco.
This Wednesday, let City Council know you want them to include ALL relevant facts!
- CARD Steering Committee
CARDtalks are written and approved by CARD Steering Committee members. We are listed on our website's About page.