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Season’s Greetings and Many Thanks!

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Dear GEAA members and friends,

I am delighted to be here one more year to wish you a Happy Holiday Season. We have made so much progress on so many important issues during the past year; we have a lot to celebrate.

I am especially grateful to our Board of Directors, the GEAA Staff, our member groups, and all of our wonderful volunteers. Special thanks to Travis Mann, Mark Wilkinson, Jim Smyle, Betty Dabney, and our interns from Texas State University, Our Lady of the Lake University, and Trinity University.

None of us here at GEAA, however, would be able to continue the work we love – research and policy development, education and mentoring, and advocacy without your support. Thank you for making this a great year!

The GEAA office will be closed until January 3rd to give everyone a chance to rest up before the Legislative Session begins. Here’s to making 2013 another great year for the Edwards Aquifer and the Texas Hill Country!

Wishing all the best to you and yours,

Annalisa Peace

Executive Director

You can always keep up with interesting water news on GEAA’s Facebook fan page


Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and Texas State University students partner to map Sewage Leaks on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone

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Press Conference: Join members of GEAA’s Technical Team and Students of Texas State University for a demonstration of Interactive Maps illustrating causes, volumes and locations of sewage leaks in Bexar County on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the AIA Center for Architecture (200 East Grayson, Suite 110 San Antonio, Texas 78215 in the Pearl Full Goods Building).

A team of four students from Dr. Yongmei Lu’s Geographic Information Science class at Texas State University (TSU), working with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA), have created a map of sewage leaks within the Edwards Aquifer Region. The interactive map, part of on-going research that GEAA is conducting to determine the impact of sewage on the Edwards Aquifer, displays detailed information about all documented sewage leaks that occurred during the past eight years within Texas Commission for Environmental Quality’s Region 13 in South Central Texas.

The interactive maps, which display location, date, volume, and cause of spills, can be viewed by the public on GEAA’s web site. Among the findings of this study is that between 2008 and May 2012 eighty three sewage spills totaling 809,000 gallons (or 2.5 acre feet) of raw sewage occurred on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. Because the Edwards Aquifer does not filter surface runoff on the Recharge Zone, this is cause for concern. Additionally, many of the leaks were in close proximity to streams and creeks, where recharge of the aquifer is most likely to occur.

The TSU students worked with a team of experts from GEAA’s Technical Advisory Team who are researching the Impact of On Site Sewage Facilities (septic tanks) vs. Organized Sewage Collection Systems on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. TSU Team member and GIS Analyst for the project, Amy Woods, noted that “We used GIS to spatially look at the distribution of spills that occurred over the Edwards Aquifer. It was amazing to see a list in Excel go from just a bunch of words with no meaning to a visual representation which can be used to really give the public a greater understanding of the quantity and volume of spills that occur in such an ecologically sensitive area.”

The research is part of an on-going partnership with TSU; this semester, a new team of TSU students is mapping sewage leak data from TCEQ Region 11. GEAA’s goal is to produce a White Paper that will examine all aspects of regulation of sewage within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, including an overview and assessment of current regulatory and agency practices, recommendations for improvements, and estimates of leakage that might determine which methods of sewage disposal pose the greatest threat to the Edwards Aquifer.

The agencies tasked with oversight of water quality of the Edward Aquifer, most notably the TCEQ and the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) rely on the use of storm water management as the chief strategy for protecting water quality of the Edwards Aquifer. Measures to address the quality of storm water infiltrating the Edwards, however, provide no protection from the introduction of subsurface pollution of the aquifer from human sewage, which becomes particularly problematic with increased high density residential development of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.


Century Oaks Developers, City, SAWS Put on Notice of Intent to Sue for Failure to Comply with Federal Law

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A Notice of Intent to Sue was mailed to Gordon Hartman and others affiliated with the Century Oaks development by Cibolo Creek Conservation Society Inc., Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (“GEAA”), and Aquifer Guardians for Urban Areas (“AGUA”) on November 7th. The Notice is directed to Gordon Hartman and Shaggy Development LLC) as well as Bitterblue, Inc., the City of San Antonio and San Antonio Water System (SAWS) and Judson Independent School District. The Notice alleges violations of the Endangered Species Act in the development of the Century Oaks / Wortham Oaks site located on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.

Century Oaks has been destroying trees on this 527-acre tract in order to build 1484 homes. Property within Century Oaks has also been sold to Judson Independent School District to build a school. This tract is presumptive habitat for Golden Cheek Warblers, in close proximity to the Cibolo Bluffs Preserve which was purchased for $7 million by Bexar County and the U.S. Army to protect the endangered Golden Cheek Warbler and the Edwards Aquifer.

The Notice of Intent puts the abovementioned parties on Notice that they have violated and continue to violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by land clearing and construction activity that has destroyed, modified and/or degraded presumptive habitat for the Golden Cheek Warbler and karst invertebrates protected by Federal Law.

The project has a history of violating environmental laws. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has a pending enforcement proceeding against Mr. Hartman for dumping 23.9 tons of construction and demolition waste into one of at least two caves on the site in July of 2011. Two years previously, large quantities of paint were dumped in the basin of this same cave.

GEAA is very concerned that this development does not observe the Impervious Cover Limit of 15% within San Antonio’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) and did not preserve significant recharge features on the site, as required by San Antonio’s Water Quality ordinances. GEAA is also concerned that other aspects of the drainage plan and WPAP approved by the City convert a large cave and other recharge features into sewer drains, sending polluted runoff from the densely developed site directly into the Aquifer. “Century Oaks says they will capture the ‘first flush’” according to Cibolo Creek member Tom Tobin, but then the ‘second flush’ goes right into our drinking water.” Mr. Tobin, the President of his neighborhood HOA, like almost all of his neighbors depends exclusively on individual wells drawing water from the aquifer. These wells are located a few hundred feet from Century Oaks.

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