Conservation district starts dye testing amid contentious wastewater discharge debate

Conservation district started dye testing Monday to see where Onion Creek water leads amid protest of wastewater discharge permit. (Photo: Canyon Darcy)

The Austin City Council is set to discuss a contested permit that would allow Dripping Springs to dump up to nearly a million gallons of wastewater into Onion Creek.

This permit has been debated for more than two years now and recently area conservation districts are fighting to stop it. This is after TCEQ already approved the discharge permit.

In late November, the board for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District voted to contest the permit. That means it will be on hold for at least a few months.

Board president Linda Kaye Rogers said they wanted to wait for more information.

“We need the science to know what we’re dealing with and where we need to go from here,” Rogers said.

On Monday they started dye testing, putting dyes upstream to see where the water leads to from Hays County.

“That will tell us what’s really happening with the discharge site. If it’s going into the aquifer, where and how much,” Rogers said.

The water could also lead to from Onion Creek to Barton Creek in Austin. That’s why the City of Austin is now getting involved.

“It’s a lot of people that could be negatively impacted by this,” Rogers said.

However, the city of Dripping Springs is confident this would have no effect.

“This is going to be one of the most looked after permits in the state of Texas and it’s going to be one of the best permits,” Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds said.

Foulds said state law requires they treat the sewage before ever discharging the water. They may never discharge the up to 995,000 gallons a day allowed in the permit.

“If we put water into the creek it would be of a quality comparable to the creek water, it would not do any permanent damage to the creek,” Foulds said.

“EPA, fish and wildlife have all reviewed this permit and have all come back and said you’re doing the right thing, just with these parameters,” he said.

He also said most of the time they wouldn’t need to discharge the water into the creek. They already have contracts to dump up to 600,000 gallons of wastewater into fields instead.

“It’s very very doubtful we would have to discharge into the creek except in extreme situations,” Foulds said.

However, as the city grows, he said they need this option to be able to discharge into the Walnut Creek, which leads to Onion Creek.

“In the end, it’s going to benefit everyone in the community,” Foulds said.

Still Rogers said anything put into the creek could have an effect.

“Anytime you put anything into a natural flow of water, you’re altering the natural balance,” Rogers said.

“And it’s going to have an effect on wildlife, the flora and fauna and all that,” she said.

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