Excrement happens. We all poop and pee. For most of us, our body wastes wind their way to a treatment plant, where biological, chemical, and physical processes remove some of the waste, convert some of it to less harmful forms, and then discharge what’s left to a nearby creek or river. For other communities, the treated wastewater is kept out of our streams, irrigated on fields or other landscaped areas and/or reused in other ways.
The discharge of municipal sewage to our nation’s waters persists despite a bipartisan Congress voting overwhelmingly in 1972 for a national goal to “eliminate discharges” of pollutants to our nation’s waters by 1985. That goal remains a cornerstone of the federal Clean Water Act to this day.
A case in point: yesterday Liberty Hill, Texas, a small town in far western Williamson County, was in the news again for its fouling of the South San Gabriel River. The photos and drone footage show exactly what happens when treated sewage is discharged into to our crystal-clear Hill Country waters.
As a last resort, our friends at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and downstream neighbors filed an official notice of their intent to sue Liberty Hill for thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act. SOS Alliance has assisted this effort, and we will help some more if needed.
Meanwhile, in Blanco, last week the City Council responded to hundreds of requests from citizens and conservation groups to create a task force to advise the City on its wastewater future. The goal of the task force is to find a path forward that keeps all of the City’s wastewater out of the Blanco River and put to beneficial reuse. THANK YOU!! to everyone who sent an email or phoned Blanco’s mayor and council urging them to pursue the task force and eliminate its river discharge.
At the same time, the Blanco council refused to put on hold its application to the TCEQ for a permit to discharge over a million gallons per day of sewage into the Blanco River. Continuing to spend money to pollute its namesake river makes little sense; it suggests a majority of the council believes the task force will not help the City “eliminate discharge” to the river as Congress implored almost 50 years ago.
How is it that today, in 2020, so many local officials make every kind of excuse and explanation for why their (our) sewage is not really causing the problem, or its only a small part of the problem, or that “it costs too much to fix it”? Downstream neighbors, native fish, people who enjoy swimming and fishing don’t add up to much in this equation. Too often, voters – poopers – let them off the hook.
Every day, usually a few times a day, behind closed doors, we contribute our share to the problem. We flush and forget. We pay our bills, cast our votes, and keep on pooping, without demanding that our elected officials take action to keep our own waste out of our nation’s rivers and streams. It’s time for Texas, at least central Texas, and for each of us to take action now to restore our rivers and eliminate our discharges to the waters of the United States.