Clearwater UWCD has submitted comments of concern regarding a proposed Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“TPDES”) Permit No. WQ0016294001 (EPA I.D. No. TX0144169) by Mustang Springs Utility, LLC and Mor-Maur Mustang, LLC.
These comments, per Clearwater Board’s approval, were submitted with significant concerns in response to the Domestic Wastewater Permit Application filed with Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) on June 15, 2023. As the District’s General Manager, and under his duties in that role, Dirk Aaron stressed that he is required to monitor wastewater discharge applications and proposed permits authorizing the discharge of wastewater into our local streambeds, waterways, and aquifer recharge areas.
Mr. Aaron has stated that he recently became aware of the application through a notice provided by our State Representative Brad Buckley and immediately alerted the District’s Board of Directors of the proposed permit and its potential impacts on the sensitive Salado Springs and hydraulically connected Edwards BFZ Aquifer, and incidentally to nearby private and public water supply wells owned by the District’s constituents.
Aaron further stated, “It is inherent to our mission of conservation, management, and protection that private property rights and protection of threatened species and their critical habitats in certain local springs within the District’s jurisdiction be considered.”
The District has provided formal comments, shared its scientific data and information, and expressed concerns regarding the proposed permit. During Clearwater’s review of the application and proposed permit, the District’s legal team and hydrogeologists identified several significant concerns.
Aaron informs the public, “That On June 13, 2023, the District’s hydrogeologist, Michael Keester, P.G. presented to the Board of Directors his technical review of the application and the proposed permit. In his presentation, he highlighted his science-based concerns regarding the location and effect of the proposed discharge on co-located springs. Additionally, Mr. Keester provided the District with supplemental documentation regarding his concerns over the application and proposed permit, including photographs demonstrating the specific geologic features along the proposed effluent path giving rise to such concerns. The information can be viewed at the following link: http://cuwcd.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2023.06.13-Public-Comment-Letter-from-Clearwater-UWCD-with-Science.pdf
Speaking for the District, Aaron explained, “While the District understands and appreciates the need for wastewater services in the area contemplated by the application and the proposed permit, we have legitimate concerns about the potential impacts the effluent discharge would have on the Salado Springs, Edwards BFZ Aquifer, and the Salado Salamander, a federally listed threatened species. Those concerns are summarized in the District’s official submittal to TCEQ.” Aaron stressed, “We are confident these concerns can be addressed through site-specific engineering solutions or an alternative method of discharge, and we are committed to cooperative engagement with both TCEQ and Mustang Springs Consultant Engineers to identify the best possible strategy to mitigate these concerns while ensuring the wastewater service needs in the area can be met.”
TCEQ rules do require a public meeting to be held when the executive director determines there is a substantial or significant degree of public interest in the application, or when a member of the legislature who represents the general area in which the facility is located or proposed to be located requests a public meeting to be held. See Tex. Admin. Code § 55.514(c)(1)-(2). To date, the TCEQ Central Registry shows 6 requests for a public meeting have been submitted. Further, we have been informed by the Office of Representative Brad Buckley that he has requested a public meeting to be held in Salado. We have also requested a public meeting on the “application and proposed permit” and are eager to testify on the subject matter contained in our public comments at any such future public meeting.
Clearwater did a full review of the 206 pages of information provided by TCEQ in response to the District’s recent Texas Public Information Act Request. It is apparent that the applicant might have fallen short of compliance with certain TCEQ notice requirements associated with TPDES permit applications. The letter dated February 17, 2023, from TCEQ’s Water Quality Division to the applicant indicates that TCEQ declared the application administratively complete on February 17, 2023. Clearwater believes and understands that the applicant is required to issue notice to certain identified landowners. To date, we are aware that several of these identified parties have not received notice of the application from the applicants.
The Notice of Receipt and Intent (NORI) was published on March 20, 2023. TCEQ Rules provide that public comments must be received within 30 days of the publication of the NORI, but that deadline is extended “to the close of any public meeting held by the agency on the proposed general permit.” See Tex. Admin. Code 205.3(d)(5). Under TCEQ’s rules, members of the public must submit public comments to preserve the right to request a contested case hearing on a permit application decision. By submitting these public comments, the District is seeking to preserve our right to a “contested case hearing and protest” if necessary.
The District’s formal comment letter and supporting documents can be found at: http://cuwcd.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2023.06.13-Public-Comment-Letter-from-Clearwater-UWCD-with-Science.pdf