News Feature | August 9, 2018

Texas City Weighs Wastewater Treatment Options

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

texas flag reg new

A city near Austin, TX, is mulling how to approach wastewater treatment in a way that protects Blue Hole, a beloved swimming spot in the area.

At the heart of the issue are concerns about Aqua Texas, a private company that spilled more than 100,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage into a creek in nearby Kyle, according to The Texas Tribune. In Kyle, fish kills and sewage overflows have prompted concerns, KXAN reported.

“A newly elected [Wimberley] council is considering hiring [Aqua Texas] to manage the city’s sewage system, halting the construction of a city-owned wastewater treatment plant,” the report stated.

“The move has sparked uproar from residents who say they don’t trust the company. To some, Aqua Texas would open the possibility of expanded development, corporate greed and — most importantly — environmental harm to the beloved Blue Hole, a popular swimming hole and tourist attraction in the area,” the report continued.

Residents fear that a potential new sewage pipeline could affect the health of Blue Hole.

“That’s because Aqua Texas, which already operates a treatment plant north of Cypress Creek, would need to build a pipeline to reach residents and businesses — and their raw sewage — on the opposite bank,” the report stated.

The city council has the opportunity to vote about whether to choose corporate or local control of wastewater, according to The Texas Tribune.

Bob Laughman, president of Aqua Texas, responded to the concerns. He said his company would meet construction regulations if it builds anything.

"It’s ironic, but if indeed there was a leak, the leak would go down, not up," Laughman said, per the report. "That’s certainly an emotional issue that they’ve brought up. The city’s going to have to go underneath the creek — that is a fact. But it’s not at all unusual for a pipeline to be bored under a creek.”

Residents are pushing back on the Aqua Texas plan. Many critics of the company have expressed their concerns at recent city hall meetings, according to The News-Dispatch.

“The citizen group No Aqua Texas had collected a petition of 1,700 signatures as [late July],” the report stated.

Image credit: "Texas Flag," Ray Bodden © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/