San Antonio mayor joins alliance to challenge wastewater permit

The permit would allow the construction of a wastewater plant to treat water and discharge it into Helotes Creek.

HELOTES, Texas – The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance has until Monday, Feb. 12, to file an official request to contest the case to block a wastewater permit made to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Annalisa Peace with the GEAA says it may take weeks or months to know if the case will be granted, but it will work much like a court hearing.

“The state appoints an administrative law judge, (and) we go before that judge,” she said. “At that time, other parties will have an opportunity to request contested case status. If they hadn’t been granted it already by TCEQ. And then the lawyers will get together and lay out a schedule of how the case will proceed. The process could take months or years.”

About 200 concerned residents showed up to a meeting Wednesday in Helotes.

The plans are to build a wastewater plant to treat the water which would be dumped into Helotes Creek. About 3,000 homes would be built on the Guajolote Ranch property near Babcock Road and Scenic Loop Road.

Ann Topperwein’s property is ground zero for the discharge. “The property that we live on has been in our family for 125 years,” she said. “I will do anything I can to get them to change this or to make it different to where it is, you know, environmentally friendly. But this is not.” She is joining with other property owners directly impacted and GEAA to contest the permit.

On Tuesday, KSAT reported about the impact the discharge might have on the Trinity Aquifer and possibly the Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone. Peace says their concerns have reached Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s office.

“I got a call from Mayor Ron Nirenberg today who said he saw (KSAT’s) report, and he wanted me to announce to the people here that he and the City of San Antonio are very concerned about this,” she said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Nirenberg said: “The health of the Edwards Aquifer is essential to the viability and success of our region. The aquifer is our primary source of water so it remains one of our highest priorities. I share the concerns about the protection of this critical part of the San Antonio watershed and will be seeking solutions to protect it.”

Property owner Lynette Munson says allowing this permit could set the train in motion for similar developments that could continue to impact the water system. “It sets a precedent. So even though it might be impactful to our land this go around, next time, it might be another piece of parcel affecting another different neighborhood,” she said.

The discharged water would not be drinkable. If the permit is allowed, residents want the TCEQ to require the plant to go above and beyond the standard requirements.

The GEAA is urging people to call their city leaders and state representatives to join in persuading the TCEQ. The organization is a nonprofit.


About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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