Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Another citizen speaks

At Monday’s Commissioner’s Court session, Chris Denison read this comment that was submitted to the TCEQ regarding the Denali Permit Application.

The area of Bastrop County being considered for sewage dumping is underlain by a rock unit called the Calvert Bluff Formation. This unit consists of layers of sands, shales and lignites, sometimes cut by sand-filled channels. All of the aquifer sands are connected to some extent, vertically and laterally. Water wells can produce from the layered sands at fairly low rates, but if you are fortunate enough to have a well that produces from a channel sand, copious amounts of water can be produced.

The Calvert Bluff dips (is inclined) to the southeast at about 100 feet to 200 feet per mile. For example, I have property on Lone Star Road, to the southeast of the intended dumping area, and I am producing water from a sand at 300 feet. That sand comes to the surface somewhere between 3 and 6 miles away, which is where the sludge will be dumped. That is where my aquifer sand is recharged.

Surface water soaks into the ground and slowly moves through the aquifer, spreading vertically and laterally, reaching my well possibly years to decades later. Any pollutants on the surface of the recharge area will be transferred into the aquifer and will eventually reach my well. Hundreds of household wells down-dip from the proposed dumping area are potentially at risk.

As an illustration of what will happen, during WWII what is now Livermore Labs in California was an airbase. On grassed areas of the airbase, oil-coated aircraft engines were washed with carbon tetrachloride (dry-cleaning fluid), which “disappeared”. Decades later, a plume of contaminated groundwater is moving towards Livermore City water wells.

Sewage sludge is notorious for containing pharmaceuticals flushed down toilets and heavy metals, including lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium, from various household cleaning products. Complex molecules from the pharmaceuticals will break down, but the surviving molecular fragments and the heavy metals will be washed into the aquifer. I will have to pay for tests to determine when the pollutants reach my well. When this toxic chemical soup eventually appears, I will not be able to use the water in my house, for my animals, or for irrigation. What do I do then - move?

Monday, July 4, 2016

How much sludge?

Have you wondered just how much sludge would be headed to Bastrop County every year? Until last night that has been an elusive figure because the Denali Water Solutions’ application is complex and much of it very technical.

The answer to that question was found just last night in the least expected place - under the “Application fee” section on page 1 of the application form. Next to that section there is a handwritten note referencing attachment 1 which contains a scan of the $4,000 check that was paid to the TCEQ as well as a chart calculating the yearly fee based on dry tons per acre per year. The total weight is an impressive 14,532.33 dry tons or about 7 tons per acre per year!

And that weight will be degrading nearby roads at taxpayers’ expense. If there is a provision for road maintenance in the contract, we haven’t found it yet. It would be interesting to know the exact weight of a fully loaded truck but that is an investigation for another day.