Well-being of Poesta a concern
by Gary Kent
Apr 05, 2013 | 2444 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – The citizens who attended last Thursday evening’s town hall meeting on the proposed city water well into the Jasper aquifer had many of their questions answered.

But not all. That may come sometime this month as the City Council hosts more such sessions.

Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez told those at the meeting that the council was hoping to schedule at least two more public meetings before a bond election set for May 11. Voters will decide whether or not to allow the city to sell $15.3 million to finance the project.

If approved, the increase in property taxes to pay for the project could cost the owner of a $75,000 home almost $18 more a month, or more than $200 a year.

Rancher Ray Welder brought up the concern of property owners downstream from the city on the Poesta Creek and Aransas River. He cited the proposed discharge of concentrated levels of suspended solids and chlorides that would be filtered from the Jasper aquifer by a reverse osmosis plant.

“The Poesta Creek is the east fork of the Aransas River,” Welder said. “It’s a very fragile system.”

If water higher in chlorides reaches the estuaries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, that could threaten all forms of wildlife and plant life in that region, including the endangered whooping crane.

Engineer Bill Norris, whose company, NorrisLeal Engineering Water, would design the well and the reverse osmosis system, said the saltier water from the plant would be blended with water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant on the Poesta, thereby diluting the salinity.

Welder then questioned the engineer’s motives in recommending the Jasper aquifer project.

“What are your fees for the project?” Welder asked.

Norris reminded Welder that his company had not yet been hired to design the project and that if it is, he was not sure yet how payment would be arranged. He said it could be based on a percentage of the project cost.

Welder then asked about the city’s existing wells into the Jasper aquifer.

That question was answered by Kevin Spencer, president of R.W. Harden & Associates of Austin.

He said the city has five wells on record and four of those are in the Jasper aquifer. But when Welder asked if those wells could be used again, Spencer said he did not think they could.

Most of the city’s wells were drilled in the 1930s, Spencer said. The most recent well was drilled in the 1960s.

“In my professional opinion, there’s a 90 percent chance that well is unusable,” Spencer said of the newer well.

When Spencer was asked by another resident if he thought the city would need new wells, Spencer said yes.

The same citizen, Keith Webb, then asked what the effect of the concentrated salts and suspended solids would be downstream after being discharged in the Poesta.

“Do plants die, or do they do well?” Webb asked.

Spencer said that in all the creeks he had seen where discharges from reverse osmosis plants were released in creeks, the plants did well.

Webb then complained that in the 20 years he has lived in Beeville, he has seen numerous residents and businesses violating water restrictions during periods of drought.

Another man, Kenneth Elsbury, said he was speaking for a group of local citizens when he asked about the financial impact of the $15.3 million bond sale on city residents on fixed incomes and businesses.

He asked the council if the city has considered the results of higher taxes on other taxing entities in the city which depend on property taxes for their projects.

He also asked when Norris’ report on the project would be made public.

Elsbury said he wanted to know what assurances city taxpayers would have that a well drilled into the Jasper, at approximately 1,600 feet, would continue to provide water of the projected quantity and quality that was being reported.

He also expressed concern over the projections that the water taken from the reverse osmosis plant, at approximately 8,000 parts per million in chlorides and suspended solids, would not negatively affect downstream users of the water in Poesta Creek.

An injunction filed by a property owner downstream would effectively shut down the operation, leaving city taxpayers in debt for something that could not be used, Elsbury suggested.

Businessman Dave Moore also expressed concern about discharging the concentrated water from the reverse osmosis plant into Poesta Creek.

He said he would like to know the cost of pumping the effluent into a deep injection well and assurances that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would approve a permit for discharging the water into the creek.

Norris assured Moore that the TCEQ would study the discharge request before granting a permit.

“I’d like to know that we can get the approval before we spend the money,” Moore said.

Norris reminded those at the meeting that running out of water is the number one concern for Beeville.

“People say we’re moving too fast,” Norris said. He agreed that the city was moving quickly with the project. “But the risk is that the city will run out of water.”

Moore then suggested that the city look at all three alternatives available to it, with surface water, a well in the Jasper aquifer and using wells in the Goliad aquifer.

“I agree,” Norris said. “Three alternatives are better than one.”

Webb than asked Norris about a timeline for the project, and Norris said drilling the Jasper well and completing the construction of the reverse osmosis plant would take 18 months.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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