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June 10, 2015     Hays Free Press
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June 10, 2015
 

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+ Hays Free Press June 10, 2015 Page 3A Iq BY COURTNEY GRIFFIN Austin Monitor Austin's Environmental Board is giving Austin City Council a clear message: The State Highway 45 Southwest road project should not move forward. At the board's regular meeting last Wednesday, members passed a motion declaring that they "(did) not support the building of SH45 SW as currently proposed." Among other directives, the motion recommends that council ask the Texas Department of Trans- portation to revoke the project's approval and rework portions of SH45 SW's Environmental Impact Study (EIS) before continuing. The issue will head to a council commit- tee this week. The motion passed 5-0 with board members Brian Smith recused and ]ames Schissler abstain- ing. Read out loud and au- thored by Board Member Ruthie Redmond, the board's recommendaton addresses a laundry list of concerns surrounding TxDOT's environmental assertions. The board continues to stress that findings within TxDOT's draft, technical and final versions of its EIS are sci- entifically unsound. TxDOT's Record of De- cision (ROD), which gave the needed green light for the project's continuance, also failed to address various environmental concerns expressed by the city of Austin and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the motion says. Therefore, the board- through council - wants TxDOT to withdraw its Re- cord of Decision and ade- quately address the city's concerns surrounding the EIS before proceeding any further. The board is also requesting that TxDOT wait until staff members complete dye trace studies involving Flint Ridge Cave before SH45 SW design work reconvenes. The studies use dyed water to better model surface and groundwater systems around the cave. Because those studies remain unfinished, envi- ronmental board mem- bers question TxDOT's assertion that SH45 SW would have no impact on Flint Ridge Cave or water quality at Barton Springs. The cave is a federally protected and environ- mentally sensitive re- charge feature that feeds Barton Springs. The right- of-way for the proposed road is located 150 feet from the cave's entrance. Redmond also said board members want the Central Texas Re- gional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) to use a recently successful project man- agement technique on SH45 SW. The technique was used in the construc- tion of Austin's Water Treatment Plant No. 4, resulting in no significant environmental impact. "We called it Environ- mental Commissioning, and it was an independent environmental oversight team that was directly in- volved with the design and construction of the proj- ect, but wasn't part of the project team," said Chuck Lesniak, who is the city's environmental officer. "Their only responsibility was to (ensure) environ- mental integrity." If developed now, the motion says, SH45 SW would present a potential risk to the city's drinking water, specifically the water from the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer that is the sole source of drinking water for approximately 60,000 residents. According to the mo- tion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the federal permit status of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve Plan (BCPP) could also be at risk from unintended construction impacts. The BCPP has facilitated more than $4.5 billion in economic development since 1988, Redmond said. Board members took issue with TxDOT's deviation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's requirement that the federally protected gold- en-cheeked warbler be studied for three years in- stead of one to determine the road's impact on the species. Additionally, they listed concerns involving other federally protected environmental features in the area, including im- pacts to Flint Ridge Cave as well as the Austin blind salamander and the Bar- ton Springs salamander, both of which rely on the springs for their habitat. Board members also noted in the motion the lack of a comprehensive look at the cumulative environmental impacts of potentially connected planned roadway systems, such as MoPac South, Interstate 35 and Highway 71 in Oak Hill. Board Member Mari- sa Perales amended the motion before it passed, urging the city to request TxDOT withdraw the Record of Decision and address comments "by whatever means appro- priate." Perales said the broad- ened wording would inform the city that the board was not limiting them to a simple request, but that council members could use other means, such as legal action. If the Austin City Coun- cil decides that TxDOT's EIS and the resulting Record of Decision is scientifically supportable, Environmental Board members advise the city manager to simply remain involved and keep a close eye on the design and con- struction of SH45 SW; they also request that TxDOT, CTRMA and the city of Austin continue to search for transportation solu- tions in Southwest Austin that may relieve traffic congestion while protect- ing the environment. This story originally appeared in the Austin Monitor. It is reprinted here with permission. BY MOSES LEOS III moses@haysfreepress.com The process of turning treated effluent into pota- ble water through the Di- rect Potable Reuse (DPR) method could be on the horizon for Buda. While a feasibility study is ongoing, Mayor Todd Ruge said he supports an idea that would make Buda only the third city in Texas to have such a system. "It really is a viable op- tion," Ruge said. "There are many hurdles but I think (the Texas Commis- sion on Environmental Quality) would like for us to move forward." The idea of tuming ef- fluent into drinking water began with city council earlier this year. During that time, council com- missioned a feasibility study to go along with a wastewater treatment plant expansion designed byAECOM. Council received an update from Marty Rum- baugh, project manager at AECOM, on May 13. Rum- baugh said the study is "fairly far along" and that "it's technically feasible" for the city to construct a plant that would treat ef- fluent into potable water. l But Rumbaugh empha- sized in a phone interview that the study is ongoing and that no recommenda- tion has been given to the city. He said AECOM plans to submit a report later this month. Several factors will go into determining if Buda is able to house a DPR sys- tem. One of them will be factoring in water demand and effluent availability. AECOM will also assess several water quality con- siderations. It goes to the product that's produced by the DPR system, which Rum- baugh said is close to dis- tilled water. He said the city wouldn't be able to mix the finished product into the water supply without looking at impacts to the distribution system. AECOM will also assess how much of the recycled water is mixed into raw water sources. It would be determined by the amount of effluent treat- ed. Currently, TCEQ does not have a cap in place on how much treated water goes into a raw water sup- "1 would be glad to drink a glass of water from this program. I would be glad to do that." -Todd Ruge, Buda mayor ply. Rumbaugh said TCEQ sets standards on a case- by-case basis. However, Rumbaugh said TCEQ wouldn't sug- gest 100 percent of the treated water go into the supply, based on the lack of mineral content it pro- duces. The study will also as- sess which method of the DPR process could work for Buda. One of the ways could be the three-step system utilized in Big Spring, which houses the first DPR system in Texas. That system, which was built in 2013 bythe Colorado River Munici- palWater District, uses a microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultra violet disinfection system. It was constructed at a separate facility for $14 million. Determining where to dis- tribute discharge, or the "brine" from the DPR pro- cess, is another factor. For council member Angela Kennedy, all avail- able treatment options "are extremely effective and reliable." Kennedy said a process involving advanced oxida- tion with UV"should take care of most concerns." "I am interested in what type of process the feasi- bility study recommends," Kennedy said. One of the larger hur- dles ~ be gaining ap- proval from TCEQ, which Dim Mvedise in the Hays Free Press and get the eyes of Buda, Kyle and surrounding communities on your business. Email tracy@haysfreepress.com to get your business noticed today. Rumbaugh said could take up to five to six years, if given approval by the city. "TCEQ will not let you blow it. They care very much about DPR," he said. "They are in favor of it. So much so, they will not let you do it unless you do it right." The biggest hurdle could be public outreach and education. Rumbaugh said it would have to be a key piece of the puzzle, and that such a project couldn't go "without pub- lic support or input." Kennedy seconded the POTABLE WATER, 6A