GREY FOREST, Texas – People living in Grey Forest are concerned about plans for a new subdivision that could impact not only Helotes Creek, but also the Edwards Aquifer.
Randy Neumann, who has lived in Grey Forest for 40 years, said he has taken his children and grandchildren swimming in the Helotes Creek for years.
“Probably some of the happiest memories I have are as a child swimming in this pristine water,” Neumann said.
However, swimming in the hidden creek could be a thing of the past.
Lennar Homes plans to build 2,900 homes on 1,160 acres in a watershed upstream of the Edwards Aquifer, located just north of Grey Forest. The Guajolote Ranch property is located in northwest Bexar County, roughly five miles north of Helotes, less than two miles north of Grey Forest, and just over five miles northwest of San Antonio.
Lennar Home sent a permit application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to build its own wastewater treatment center and pump up to one-million gallons of treated wastewater daily into Helotes Creek.
Nathan Glavy, of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said the organization is concerned because Helotes Creek lies on a recharge zone to the Edwards Aquifer.
“We’re raising a lot more environmental concerns when it comes towards, you know, recharge rates, pollution and drains into our recharge zone, and especially the Edward’s Aquifer, which we still heavily rely on to meet over half our city’s water needs,” Glavy said.
In 2020, Southwest Research Institute conducted a study on how wastewater disposal affects the Edward’s Aquifer. Helotes Creek was chosen because it’s both a contributing and recharge zone. Using water samples, the study concluded any wastewater supply could have a negative impact on the aquifer’s water quality.
GEAA Executive Director Analisa Peace said if Guajolote Ranch begins pumping effluent water into the creek, it could set a precedent for other developers to potentially taint the water draining into the aquifer. Currently, the water in the aquifer is clean, but Peace said it would be expensive to reverse any treated water entering it.
“If we reach the threshold where it does not meet drinking water standards, then it would cost SAWS ratepayers in the billions of dollars to pre-treat that water before it’s distributed. So, I guess we have a really wonderful system and we should protect it,” Peace said.
Peace said GEAA recently settled a lawsuit with Lennar for violating its TCEQ agreement at a Bulverde subdivision.
In Bulverde, where Lennar recently completed its 4S Ranch development, GEAA and Bulverde Neighborhood Alliance (BNA) had in 2019 filed a notice of intent to sue in an effort to get Lennar to comply with a 2016 agreement to avoid flooding its neighbors and protect a large recharge cave on the property.
Then came a heavy rainstorm in October 2019, when a deluge of stormwater laden with mud and construction debris flowed off of 4S Ranch onto a neighboring property.
“That facility would be run by Lennar. And so it’s kind of like having the fox guard the hen house. And so we just can’t trust that it’s going to really get all the chemicals, all the pharmaceutical products out. That water will run on top of the land and make its way down into the aquifer,” Grey Forest resident Michael Schnick said.
Appraisal documents show the land has not yet been purchased by Lennar Homes.
“Once they get their approvals for the wastewater treatment plant or this or that, then they’ll go ahead and make progress,” Peace said.
Lennar Homes declined to comment for this report.
“You do it for one developer and then you’ll start doing it for everybody. And before you know it, you have irreversible damage to the water system,” Schnick said. “This isn’t anti-development. This is anti and healthy development, anti unsafe development, anti careless development.”
GEAA has file a petition that you can read about here.
You can view the permit application for Guajolote Ranch property below: