November 10, 2023: A Historic Day for Pristine Streams.

Written By:
Friends of Hondo Canyon

TCEQ was handed a proposal for decision by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), a decision that identified the maximum level of phosphorus in wastewater effluent that could safely be directly discharged into the formerly Pristine San Gabriel River without causing degradation and algal blooms.

At its most stringent phase, the current draft permit issued by TCEQ would permit a phosphorus concentration of 0.150 mg/L., far lower than the 0.5 mg/L limit previously permitted.  The ALJ’s decision considered both the Background levels of phosphorus – less than 0.01 mg/L in the South Fork San Gabriel River upstream of the outfall (where the river is unaffected by the wastewater), and considered the science which demonstrates that phosphorus drives algal blooms and phosphorus levels above 0.009 mg/L is when initial degradation might occur.  The ALJ ruled that the City of Liberty Hill should be restricted to discharging a phosphorus effluent of no more than 0.015 mg/L– a level unattainable by any wastewater package plant available today.

What happens next – and what does this mean for Pristine Streams?

TCEQ is the permitting agency for all wastewater discharges in Texas.  TCEQ Commissioners must vote to either accept or reject the ALJ’s proposal for the City of Liberty Hills discharge permit.

How their decision will impact the 12 other permits that have been issued in Pristine Streams is yet to be determined, as well as any new permit applications.  Nevertheless, if approved by the Commissioners, this ALJ ruling` will have consequences for how TCEQ manages wastewater effluent discharges into our few remaining Pristine Streams in Texas.  We will hear the Commissioner’s deliberations when this proposed decision by the ALJ is placed on the docket of an upcoming TCEQ Agenda meeting.

STAY TUNED for updates.  We are all stakeholders in Pristine Streams, and I will let you know when this new ruling will be considered by the Commissioners.  If public comment is invited, please be ready to voice your support for the protection of Pristine Streams.  Friends of Hondo Canyon will continue to do everything possible in a collaborative way to make the protection of these iconic streams a reality.

We would not be here today without your support.  Thank you.