San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 12th, 2009
Buda-area project rouses water protest

Opponents of a proposed 1,300-home development west of Buda worry that treated effluent from the project would drain into the Edwards Aquifer, which runs under most of Hays County.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

Administrative Law Judge Rebecca Smith is expected to decide this month if a group of engineers and scientists may conduct a geologic assessment of about 600 acres near Buda against the wishes of landowners Duston, Delton and Cindi Hudson.

Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BS/EACD) environmental permit specialist John Dupnik said the Hudsons’ sale of the land to developer Jeremiah Venture, L.P., is contingent on the latter’s acquisition of a Texas Land Application Permit (TLAP), which would allow the company to spray up to 330,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater on 122.37 acres.

The effluent would come from the approximately 1,300 homes Jeremiah Venture plans to build on the land, which is located near 6327 FM 967, about three miles west of FM 1626.

The City of Austin, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Hays County and Save our Springs Alliance (SOS) joined forces to oppose the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) granting of a draft TLAP to Jeremiah Venture, which conducted its own geologic assessment of the site.

The protestants say that if the site contains numerous karst features — channels dissolved through the limestone by water — and soil depth is sufficiently shallow, the effluent could drain directly into the Edwards Aquifer, possibly harming human health and the endangered Barton Springs Salamander. Water entering the aquifer through karst features near the proposed water treatment site can reach the salamander’s Barton Springs habitat in three days.

“On tracts on both sides (of the Jeremiah Venture project), we’ve identified a number of features and a far greater number of more sensitive features than the geologic assessment shows on the tract,” Dupnik said. “We want to make sure there’s sufficient (soil) depth, and that the actual soil type is suitable for this kind of thing. And the information in the application is a bit lacking as far as that goes … It’s a 600-acre tract and there was a handful of soil samples. We don’t feel like they really captured everything. We feel like there is a way to be able to adequately manage their effluent on site, but it really is contingent on having accurate and thorough characterization of the entire tract.”

Though representatives from both sides had expressed optimism concerning the likelihood of reaching a compromise for a new inspection of the site, Jeremiah Venture made no headway in convincing the protestants to limit the scope of their proposed investigation. The protestants’ motion filed at the State Office of Administrative Hearings seeks unlimited access for 27 specialists equipped with backhoes, bobcats and other equipment for up to seven days.

“Such a request, on its face, is unreasonable per se,” said representatives for Jeremiah Venture in the Applicant’s Response to Protestants’ Joint Motion for Entry Upon Property filed with SOAH. “Moreover, Protestants have failed to establish ‘good cause’ for the extremely broad and intrusive inspection they have proposed. Accordingly, Applicant requests that Protestants’ Motion be denied, or in the alternative, that the size and scope of Protestants’ inspection be limited.”

A hearing on the protestants’ motion has yet to be scheduled.

SOS Attorney Sarah Baker said some of the specialists the protestants have recommended for the inspection may be able to identify endangered species living in karst features.

“That’ll be something we’ll be looking at as part of whether or not the permit and the facility meet the state law requirements,” Baker said.

Most federally-listed karst species are invertebrates like the Tooth Cave spider, which has only been found in Travis and Williamson counties. TCEQ spokesperson Andrea Morrow said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed comments regarding the possibility of endangered species near or on Jeremiah Venture’s proposed subdivision site and requested direct consultation with the applicant. Jeremiah Venture may consult directly with Fish and Wildlife, or it can utilize “optional enhanced measures” used by TCEQ over the Edwards Aquifer.

Professional geologist and cave biologist Andy Grubbs said there are no endangered karst species in Hays County, and it would be very difficult to prove that treated wastewater from the proposed facility would harm the Barton Springs Salamander. Grubbs, who also designs septic systems, warned that building many roads and houses over karst features alters the way water in the region usually moves through the ground, causing large amounts of it to concentrate in smaller areas.

“Suddenly, now you’ve got a drip off of a roof that’s falling in a concentrated manner on one place,” Grubbs said. “You have the street runoff concentrated, in concentrated flows, so these openings in the rock that were formerly filled with dirt that was not moving because the water was moving slowly, now suddenly you put concentrated water flow on them. What do you think’s going to happen? They’re going to wash open. So if you build your house where it’s sitting on one of these and the drip line of your your roof is dripping onto that, down the road you’re going to have a problem.”

Though he had nothing good to say about SOS, Grubbs said he supports the current SOS attempt, along with the other protestants, to examine the area of the proposed subdivision.

“In order to do a development of that size safely, you would need to do very detailed geophysical studies of the whole entire site, and what we know about karst is that it is not uniformly distributed over the landscape,” Grubbs said. “The reason that they want a wastewater treatment plant is because they want to do a city-style subdivision of high density on the recharge zone. And we have to ask ourselves if those are appropriate or not.”

Delton Hudson declined comment. Jeremiah Venture could not be reached for comment.

“There’s other issues about…ownership and control of the property that will come later in the hearing that I don’t want to talk about right now,” Baker said. “To me, (Jeremiah Venture is) kind of hiding behind the land owners.”

The contested TLAP case between Jeremiah Venture and the various protestants comes on the heels of the TCEQ commissioners’ decision to allow Hays County Water Control and Improvement District #1 to discharge treated wastewater from the Belterra development into Bear Creek. Protestants in that case also included Hays County, City of Austin and BS/EACD, all of whom would have preferred land application rather than direct discharge, the first of its kind in the contributing zone on the Edwards Plateau. City of Austin Attorney Trish Link said she is in consultation with city officials to decide whether to appeal the Belterra decision to the district court.

In January, Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) motioned to seek party status in the contested case, along with the other protestants against Jeremiah Venture.

“We’re already talking about requiring (Jeremiah Venture) to do the highest level of treatment plant,” Barton said. “It’s a very, very high level of treatment — much higher than most city plants throughout the region, for example. So we’re talking about treating effluent to a very high standard. They’re talking about having safeguards in place. We want to make sure that there’s enough soil there and that there are protected zones around recharge features, and then be open to this idea of using wastewater in a creative way, because if you look at the kind of drought conditions we’ve got, we all have to begin preparing ourselves for more creative, more far-sighted uses of water. We can’t afford to flush wastewater down the toilet and never think of it again, we’ve got to find other ways to use it.”

After Smith decides whether to grant protestants access to the Hudsons’ property, there will be a number of hearings in Austin before Administrative Law Judge Roy Scudday. After Scudday submits a proposal for decision to the TCEQ commissioners, they will take his recommendation into consideration before deciding what revisions to the draft TLAP should be made, or the commissioners may withhold the final TLAP. A pre-hearing conference is scheduled for July 30 in Austin at the William P. Clements Building at 10 a.m., and a hearing on the merits is scheduled for August 3-6 at 10 a.m. Both hearings are open to the public.

Among the species thought to be endangered by a possible residential development west of Buda is the Barton Springs Blind Salamander.

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0 thoughts on “Buda-area project rouses water protest

  1. Is the the same Andy Grubbs who designed the non-compliant Ramus commercial septic system that requires 24 acres but was built on a residential lot of less than two acres where the owner has been cited as being a public nuisance…three times no less?

    And is it any surprise that Commissioner Barton would be defending effluent spray over the Edwards Aquifer for a developer, and being quoted in the same article as Grubbs who came up with such gems as:

    “Suddenly, now you’ve got a drip off of a roof that’s falling in a concentrated manner on one place,” Grubbs said. “You have the street runoff concentrated, in concentrated flows, so these openings in the rock that were formerly filled with dirt that was not moving because the water was moving slowly, now suddenly you put concentrated water flow on them.”

    Barton has been desperately defending Ramus and his Grubbs designed non-compliant septic system at commissioners court and in his family owned newspaper.

    And pray tell, what is a “cave biologist?” Andy designs on site septic systems…and not very well if judged by the Ramus system he designed.

    All very pseudo science mumbo jumbo by a self described “cave biologist” and his sidekick commissioner.

    Only in Hays County.

  2. You know O’Dell, it takes an awfully big man to keep kicking Ramus when he’s down. Are you really still spewing about his septic tank? You must still really enjoy making this guys life miserable after all this time. Let it go. Move on.

    And not for nothing here, but I am curious how you might hold up if the light of public inquiry was directed solely at you. Are you as squeaky clean is you make yourself out to be? You’ve never made a mistake?

    You certainly can dish it out, O’Dell, and you seem to have a lot of fun while you do. The real question is, can you take it?

    Might be worth a look.

  3. Casual,

    What do you mean, “…kicking Ramus when he’s down?” How is Ramus down and in what respect is he down? Ramus isn’t a victim, the record shows that he is a perpetrator, especially with help from elected officials.

    With encouragement from Commissioners Barton and Conley he sued the county and got a favorable, albeit strange ruling from the visiting judge. Inquiring minds still want to know were a self proclaimed indigent got $80,000 for attorney fees.

    Yet, neither Ramus nor his attorney, Skip Newsom, in all this time have asked the judge to rule on attorney fees or any other legal issue they may have regarding what the County should do now that Ramus has won his case.

    Nor has commissioners’ court made any move to bring closure to this case by either appealing the screwy decision that limits its governmental authority, or to obtain a ruling settling the plaintiff’s legal fee issue.

    Seem strange to you? Ask your commissioner and county judge why this case has been left dangling. Are they hoping the Ramus mess will just go away on its own?

    Now I turn to the upcoming criminal trial for the charge of deadly conduct against Ramus for pointing his shotgun and threatening two individuals. Ramus has requested a jury trial.

    Do you suppose Barton and Conley, both strong supporters of Ramus (Conley’s Hays County Republican Party supported Ramus financially in his 2008 token bid for Pct. 1 county commissioner), are concerned that their Ramus who you portray as being “down”, may be convicted yet once again and their political scam blow up in their faces? Barton is already campaigning for the 2010 election and Ramus is Barton’s lurking albatross. And we are still awaiting a decision from the Texas Ethics Commission about how Ramus used his campaign funds.

    Just like the Hays County ACC voter fraud and forgery case recently dismissed without anyone being held accountable, I’ll wager that Barton and Conley supporter, attorney Charles Soechting is working behind the scene trying to show DA Sherri Tibbe how she can dismiss the Ramus deadly conduct charge and make this Ramus thing go away for Barton.

    Now here is a little speculation. Do you suppose the Ramus trips to Houston for “medical” reasons and his “physical therapy” sessions being paid for by the State of Texas will be used in another Ramus suit against the county for depriving him of a livelihood?

    And why hasn’t Ramus opened his restaurant or allowed any reporter to see the inside in over a year since he won his suit against the county? Do you suppose the County Environmental Health Department knows whether Ramus has been catering, especially during the past holiday season?

    Now Casual, tell me why you describe Ramus as being “down,” and tell me that you are not Ramus.

  4. Charles O’Dell,

    Your conspiracy theories never cease to amaze even the most apolitical citizens in the county!

    You attack, tell very twisted tales, and waste space in on-line newspapers.

    It is such a shame. You retired much too early. Your energy could have been redirected to many positive causes.

  5. Hi Ramus, I mean David,

    Why is it that when the facts get too hot, up jumps the “conspiracy theory” misdirection posts.

    Anything in my post you want to factually challenge?

    If all goes according to history, there will be a bevy of posters trying to misdirect readers from the issues I raised.

    By the way “David,” how did you know I was retired?

    Actually, I’m not retired. Running a bonafide government watchdog non-profit organization is more than full-time, especially in Hays County.

  6. I’m not Ramus and neither is David most likely. Not that this revelation will do any good, because we both know that you’re paranoia-addled mind will keep coming back, and back, and back, and back to Nick Ramus. You’re obsessed with a chef and his septic tank! Man, that’s just weird.

    Do you sleep with a photo of him under your pillow? Keep detailed files? Good God man, what would you life be without him? I think you owe Nick Ramus some thanks for all the purpose he has infused into your life. Send him a Hallmark card or something.

    I will say this for you Chucky…you sanctimony is always amusing. I just wish it wasn’t so annoying and meaningless at the same time.

  7. I just checked on the county’s web site, there is at this time no pending criminal cases against Ramus. My Charles Soechting is slick.

    The past couple of hours have benn amusing, following this on line argument. I am now going to do the worst thing you can possibly do to a blow hard like Charles O’dell, I am going to ignore him. We should all do that.

  8. Casual,

    Not Ramus? So you write. Won’t address the issues? Why not?

    Larry,
    What’s this?

    Case Number: 090604 Charge: DEADLY CONDUCT
    Name: Ramus, Nicholas George, Jr.
    dob 10/21/1952

    Status: Adult Misdemeanor
    Filed 10/29/2008
    County Court at Law #1

    Right off the Hays County government web site.

    You guy(s) are a joke!

  9. FYI,

    According to his rap sheet, Ramus has been charged fourteen (14) times for offenses occurring just in Hays County.

    I know…I’m kicking Ramus when he’s down. Appears this fellow is always down, and this is the kind of folks Commissioners Barton and Conley support.

    Only in Hays County.

  10. Chucky…Chucky…Chucky, I’m not debating you. I’m not even remotely interested in debating you. To engage you in debate would mean that I would have to implicitly acknowledge that you and your arguments have merit, or that your “issues” are in fact issues.

    No no no. I’m MOCKING you. In fact I’m mocking you and your Ramus/Septic fetish as hard as I can. I do this because I have little to no regard for you personally or professionally. You’re a bully with a degree. No more, and so much less.

    Remember Chucky…Mocking, not debating. Please continue though. By all means, continue. Entertainment, after all, is where you find it.

  11. Griffin,

    You would do well as a tax paying citizen to pay attention to the issues being posted, not the attempts to deflect the hard information.

    If you don’t care about open and accountable government, that’s your choice.

    I wonder what you hope to find in these posts, if not verifiable information missing in such articles as this one.

  12. Charles,

    YOU where the one who brought in Nick Ramus and his septic system, like you always seem to do. I get it, you don’t like him. Neither do I, but is he really revelent to the original article?

    P.S. Is it really nessessary to list yourself as a Ph.D.?

  13. It seems that I have made the big time having been personally attacked by C. “gobbels” O’Dell in 2 threads in one day. rather than getting off the track of the true subject of the article this thread should be about I would like to commend the writer for handling a complex subject in a fairly competent way. My conversation with him was a long talk on the telephone and I had many points, not all of which could be included in the article. Probabally many others he talked to made some of the same points as I did but my experience with caves, land use planning and wastewater gives me a slightly different perspecitve. It is too bad that our local weekly does not have writers who can handle environmental topics as well.

  14. Charles,

    You are posting at a disadvantage? In my opinion, you have been given too much space. It is apparent that you are obsessed with your conspiracy theories.

    Your antics would be harmless, except that they all too often involve tax payer money that many people do not realize.

    How did I know that you are retired? It would seem rather obvious that a guy that spends as much time raking muck on others does not have a productive life himself.

  15. I agree with everyone else who is tired of hearing about one septic tank in the middle of BFE. Charles, if that is the only issue you can find with our elected officials, either they are doing a helluva job, or you are not much of a muckraker.

    Let’s move on. You are distracting people from what are likely legitimate concerns about this development.

    Perhaps that is your intent. Perhaps you are the one on the take, which would explain where you get all of your free time.

  16. Very well said “sir Ted” !! “….one septic tank in the middle of BFE.” Classic! I agree completely with that and the rest of your statement! If Charles really does have a PhD, you’d think he would do something to contribute to society rather than sit in a septic tank wallowing away!

  17. This is Charles Soechting. I just happened to Google my name (I do that on occasion) and saw that Charles O’Dell had once again given me credit for something I knew nothing about. So, here are my responses “Charles O’Dell is nuttier than a fruitcake” “Charles O’Dell needs serious and I mean really serious mental health treatment” I am only sorry that I just learned of this string of posts and so only a few people will know that I really believe that Charles O’Dell is either mentally ill or an unrepentant liar with absolutely no sense of decency or regard for truth. Signed, CES

  18. Charles’ false allegations are his stock in trade. When Charles’ false allegations are found not credible in a court of law, it never seems to sink in to Charles O’dell, the poor bugger, Charles O’dell is nuttier than a fruit cake, and a bald faced liar to boot. Way to go Charles never let reality get into your way or your lying pronouncements.

  19. Did anyone else see that Nick Ramus was convicted on the charge of deadly conduct and given one year in prison that was converted to two years of probation and 40 hours of community service. Judge Rodriquez also fined Ramus $700 and court cost, and required Ramus to attend an anger management course.

    I attended the hearing and once again Ramus perjured himself with false testimony. You would have had to hear his testimony to believe anyone would lie so blatantly. Ramus made only two factual statements—his name and his address. It was downhill from there.

  20. One has to wonder if O’Dell has a Nick Ramus shrine somewhere in his bedroom, along with Tiger-Beat style posters of Jeff Barton taped up on the walls and a lock of his hair in his hope chest.

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