By SHELLY WILKISON
Six months ago, Joe Schram bought his dream home on 11 acres and moved from the bustle of Round Rock to the country where he could raise goats, enjoy the breezes and retire amidst the pristine Central Texas landscape.
He never imagined that he would suddenly find himself in a fight to protect his dream from a wastewater treatment plant.
Schram lives on Craigen Road near Ronald Reagan Blvd., close to the site of the Santa Rita and Middlebrook subdivisions — two developments that will bring hundreds of homes to the Liberty Hill area in the coming years.
Developers are proposing to build a wastewater treatment plant about 2.5 miles north of the intersection of Ronald Reagan Blvd. and State Highway 29. According to documents obtained from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the agency considering a permit application for the facility, treated effluent will be discharged to an unnamed tributary that makes its way into Sowes Branch. From there, the treated wastewater would flow into the North Fork of the San Gabriel River.
“I will be the closest neighbor to the plant, and I’ll be able to see it from my (swimming) pool,” Schram said.
Schram is one of dozens of property owners living near the proposed site of the plant who plan to share their opposition during a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the Cowan Creek Amenities Center in Georgetown. The meeting, hosted by TCEQ, will be held in the Florence Room at the Center located at 1433 Cool Spring Way in Georgetown.
Schram said when he purchased his home in November 2012, he was not informed about plans for a wastewater treatment plant nearby. He said he heard about the proposal just two weeks ago from a neighbor.
“This is going to be close enough to me that I’ll be able to smell it,” Schram said. “I moved to the country so I wouldn’t have to deal with that.”
The application for the permit states that an initial review of the facility “determined that existing water quality uses will not be impaired by this permit action. A Tier 2 review has preliminarily determined that no significant degradation of water quality is expected in North Fork San Gabriel River, which has been identified as having a high aquatic life use. Existing uses will be maintained and protected.”
According to TCEQ, the Executive Director has made a preliminary decision that the permit, if finally issued, meets all statutory and regulatory requirements. The purpose of Monday’s public meeting will be to discuss the proposed facility and accept comments.
TCEQ staff and the permit applicant will be present to answer questions, however, only formal comments will be considered prior to making a decision on whether to grant the permit. Formal comments are those submitted in writing and presented during the Formal Comment Period at the meeting.
“This is a huge injustice,” said Schram. “I wouldn’t have found out about this at all had I not been notified by a neighbor.”
Matthew Voigt said he notified Schram and others along their road after he heard about the proposed plant and researched it online.
“The plant will be built just east of us, and the prevailing winds here are from the southeast,” Voigt said. “I have a new water well and I’m concerned about how it might be impacted.”
Voigt said he purchased his homeplace about 20 years ago, well before the construction of Ronald Reagan Blvd.
He said he also plans to speak at the meeting Monday and will ask developers to consider moving the location of the facility away from adjacent lands and further into the development.
“I know what they say, that this water (once treated) will be just as good as pool water, but I wouldn’t want to drink pool water either,” Schram said. “If I were to empty my pool, it would kill the trees out here.”
For more information about the proposed wastewater treatment plant for Williamson County Municipal Utility District No. 19, see the application and supporting documents at the Liberty Hill Public Library.