By Samantha Smith
Buda City Hall was filled with drama June 7 as residents voiced concerns about the city dumping treated wastewater into Plum Creek, which they claim is causing flooding issues in the area of the Soil Conservation Service Site 6 reservoir in Kyle.
But city officials claim they’re following State standards for discharging treated effluent, and that maintaining the area near the SCSS 6 dam falls beyond their jurisdiction.
Roughly 30 to 40 citizens packed into the council chambers to voice their concerns and show their support for various causes.
Seven of the public comments were from residents who shared frustrations regarding flooding events of the past three years.
Karen Hipsman and Mary Caudell were concerned about the inadequate drainage planning at the Bella Vita community. They said the retention pond at the Bella Vita development is very shallow and can’t hold a lot of water.
Hipsman said culverts had not been cleaned out from the last flood and expressed her dissatisfaction with the city for not maintaining them.
“We have been lucky no one has died,” Hipsman said.
Concerns were also raised by residents about the safety of the effluent discharged into Plum Creek.
Garcia was upset that the city did not send notices to inform residents that they were planning on discharging treated effluent into Plum Creek.
“I wish notices had been sent to everyone,” Terry Garcia, Sr. said.
Elizabeth Vargas asked why the fish in Plum Creek were dying if the effluent water discharge was treated.
Vargas said that the fish that did survive, when caught and gutted, had maggots inside them and could not be eaten.
Byrd said the daily volume of water being released into Plum Creek, 1.5 million gallons, is contributing to the consistent flooding problems and wanted to know what the city was prepared to do to fix the issue.
Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said the city discharges treated effluent at FM 967 and Cement Road, which is located over six miles north of the SCSS 6 dam and is the state approved location for such discharge.
“We have a permit from TCEQ for our wastewater treatment plant,” Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams said.
TCEQ Media Relations Specialist Brian McGovern said in an emailed response the discharge travels from an “unnamed tributary; thence to Andrew’s Branch; thence to an unnamed lake; thence to Porter Creek; thence to SCS6 Reservoir; thence to Plum Creek in Segment No. 1810 of the Guadalupe River Basin.”
In addition, the SCSS 6 dam belongs to the Plum Creek Conservation District and is under its management, according to documents.
Williams added that the city of Buda had won an award in 2014 for the “exceptional condition” of its wastewater treatment plant.
“We haven’t had any violations, we haven’t had any raw sewage discharge into this waterway (Plum Creek),” Williams said.
Williams expressed the city’s concern for all Hays County citizens, but maintained that the city was not illegally dumping wastewater.
Ruge said the city is “taking these accusations very seriously” and that the city heard of the accusations six months ago via a letter from Byrd.
He added Guadalupe Blanco River Authority General Manager Bill West and himself co-authored a letter to Byrd “answering all those questions” in her original letter.
“So the notion that we are not being proactive and answering questions is false,” Ruge said.
Williams reached out to Byrd on June 8 via email regarding the issue. Williams said he offered to set up a meeting with city staff and all involved entities to discuss solutions to the issue.
The city encouraged Byrd to invite other concerned citizens as well.
Byrd replied in an email that she was not interested in the proposition of a meeting unless the City of Buda or other involved entity was prepared to offer financial compensation for her land or damages sustained on her property.
“If any of the entities are interested in discussing ways to purchase a portion of my property or pay me for damages, then feel free to contact me again,” Byrd wrote in her email.