Cedar Park - Leander | November 2020

Between 2018 and 2019, the Liberty Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant received seven Texas Commission on Environmental Quality violations. The commission ned the city $91,651 on June 10. o v e r t i m e v i o l a t i o n s

apr. 1, 2018 Failure to notify the TCEQ before

apr. 1, 2018 Failure to obtain authorization to discharge stormwater

May 8, 2018 Failure to properly collect euent, or discharged water, samples

May 8, 2018 Failure to minimize or prevent violation with likelihood of aecting human or environmental health $36,000 fine VIOLATED: 71 DAYS

completion of new facilities

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2

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$7,500 fine VIOLATED: 108 DAYS

$6,000 fine VIOLATED: 71 DAYS

$12,000 fine VIOLATED: 61 DAYS

SOURCE: TEXAS COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

million gallons per day, or MGD, of treated wastewater into the river. The city of Liberty Hill is now requesting a TCEQ permit renewal to allow the plant to discharge 4 million gallons per day—a 233% maximum increase to a river aecting river recreation, river appearance and property val- ues, according to riverside residents. The plant currently processes about 800,000 gallons per day, per the city. The permit is under review by the state commission. A public meet- ing was held Aug. 17 with formal comment and informal discussion periods. People against the permit submitted 203 comments, hearing requests and public meeting requests for contested case hearings, all to ask the commission to deny the renewal. In a statement to Community Impact Newspaper , TCEQ said it considers compliance history when approving permit applications. “Additionally, a permittee’s com- pliance record may result in addi- tional permit requirements which are focused on improving permittee

compliance,” it said. In late 2019, Mackenzie Wilson moved into the same new-construc- tion neighborhood as Dixon. Access to the river was a key selling point that the builders pushed, she said. A com- munity trail runs along the river in their development. “Now, knowingwhat I do, I wouldn’t even put my feet in the water right here,” Wilson said. Wilson said she thinks the state’s reprimands have been insignicant. “It’s been such small nes and tiny slaps on the wrist that it’s just not being taken very seriously,” she said. Most recently, on June 10, the city of Liberty Hill was ned $91,651 for seven water quality violations. The city has declined to comment as of the time of publication. One violation includes a 2019 event in which 3,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was released. The city’s website says the partially treated solid was removed, and nec- essary components were replaced for alarms to work properly. “Even this small amount of dis- charge—less than [1%] of the [water processed] the plant treats on a daily basis—is too much,” the city website states. “This situation provided an opportunity for city sta to evaluate protocols and improve processes to prevent this type of occurrence.”

Raymond Slade, a certied hydrolo- gist of 49 years, said wastewater treat- ment plants pose huge human and environmental health threats across Texas. He calls it “an almost invisible threat” because most people cannot see the issue’s depth beyond the sur- face-level algae. Within the water, ushed pharma- ceuticals and industrial compounds are present because the treatment process does not fully remove them so when people sh or swim in the water, they can become sick with- out realizing the source. Slade said he would not swim in the Blue Hole Park, which is miles away from the Liberty Hill plant’s discharge site. “Nobody knows how much nitro- gen or phosphorous that most of the facilities are dumping in the streams,” he said. Environmentally, the euent’s high nutrient counts rapidly aect groundwater and aquifer sources like well water. Slade said Texas has the most wastewater facilities in the country and is one of the least restrictive states in wastewater discharge. In his experience, TCEQ violations are far and few. The nes that Liberty Hill has received are very unusual, he said. “They are very friendly to the industry,” Slade said.

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Additionally, city-reported nutri- ent data shows heightened levels of nitrogen; E. coli; suspended solids, or particles that should be caught by l- ters; and phosphorus when compared to the maximum levels in the federal Clean Water Act, according to city and federal data on the river’s water. The city of Liberty Hill plant has raised troubles for Leander and Georgetown residents following its violations of the state permit allow- ing discharge and federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. Though those aected live in Leander or Georgetown, the decision to resolve the plant issues comes down to the owner of the plant: Liberty Hill. Dixon said she believes it should be preserved for future generations. “I really have no idea what the ram- ications are if it keeps up,” she said. “Already, it is not in a good space.” The plant, which discharges water east of US 183 into the South Fork San Gabriel River, is allowed to pump 1.2

W h e r e i s t h e r i v e r ? The 34-mile South Fork San Gabriel River starts in Burnet County and ends at the North Fork of the river in Georgetown. The Liberty Hill wastewater plant is located in Leander and near its discharge site. The eects of the euent can be seen at Garey Park, and residents worry it will aect Blue Hole Park in the future.

“NOW, KNOWINGWHAT I DO, IWOULDN’T EVENPUTMYFEET INTHEWATER ...”

LIBERTY HILL WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT

MACKENZIEWILSON, RESIDENT

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JUNE 22, 2017

JULY 18, 2020

F

EFFLUENT OUTFALL

GAREY PARK

LEANDER

SOURCE: TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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