In July of 2017, Electro Purification, LLC ("EP") applied for a groundwater production permit from the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District ("BSEACD") for a Middle Trinity Aquifer well field in Hays County - the same well field that previously, had been unregulated. For background info click here. The permit application indicates that pumping rates will be phased in over time with a maximum permitted pumping rate of 2.5 million gallons per day (MGD), or approximately 912 million gallons per year, pumped from seven wells located on the Odell and Bridges properties. BSEACD projects that pumping this amount of groundwater will cause 300-500 feet of drawdown in the Cow Creek Aquifer within one year and after seven years could result in dewatering of the Cow Creek Aquifer.
In February 2018, BSEACD determined that potentially unreasonable impacts will occur at residential wells in the vicinity of the well field. As a result, EP submitted a compliance monitoring plan and impact avoidance plan to mitigate and avoid the unreasonable impacts subject to BSEACD approval.
On May 21st, BSEACD staff issued a Statement of Position and recommendation to the Board of Directors to grant EP’s permit application. Staff recommended that pumping volumes be phased in over a four phases and recommended special provisions to be included in the permit designed to avoid and mitigate unreasonable impacts to wells and the aquifer. You can read the decision here.
On June 25, 2018, TESPA submitted comments and a contested case request to BSEACD related to EP's application and proposed permit. You can read TESPA's comments here. BSEACD received over 300 comments and 11 contested case requests, including TESPA's, one from Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell, and from individual landowners. Electro Purification requested that BSEACD refer the case for a hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
On September 17, 2018, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to the case held a preliminary hearing to determine party status, ultimately admitting all landowners, Hays County and TESPA as parties to the contested case.
TESPA has serious concerns about the impacts the proposed permit will have on groundwater resources in the area. For example, if the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District issues this permit, it will be giving away all of the remaining groundwater to EP that the Texas Water Development Board has determined is available for production based on the current desired future condition for the Trinity Aquifer in Groundwater Management Area 10.
This unprecedented and grossly disproportionate amount to one permittee is not for the benefit of the permittee’s land upon which the wells will produce, but to export the water out of the area. The water is drawn from hundreds of other landowners’ properties without compensation to them, despite Texas law granting them a vested property right to the water under their land.
Other overall concerns TESPA has related to the permit are as follows:
• Excessive drawdown in vicinity of residential wells will occur. Drawdowns of 300 feet are projected a distance of two miles from the well field in the Middle Trinity Aquifer. (see map)
• The large scale pumping will cause aquifer mining, or overdraft in a portion of the Middle Trinity Aquifer with a currently undefined recharge zone,
• Long term impacts on the Desired Future Condition and on spring flow is unknown,
• Phased permitting approach removes ability of landowners to protest at each stage if they are affected
Pursuant to the procedural schedule agreed to by the parties in the case, on ____ EP submitted its testimony, on _____ TESPA and Hays County submitted our testimony, and on _____ the District submitted their testimony.
In June 2019, BSEACD also revised many of the special conditions of the proposed permit in response to public comments and arguments made in TESPA's testimony. You can read the revised special conditions here. While the revisions have many beneficial changes, TESPA's overall concerns with the proposed permit still exist.
As a result of these changes, EP has asked for a continuance on the hearing, which was originally scheduled for September 2019. The parties are now considering a hearing in late April or early May of 2020.
BSEACD has posted all documents related to the permit application on their website. Click here.