The Common Good Is Being Exploited...To Our Peril

This is the third in my series exposing crooked government officials and groups who collude with business people and corporations to harm and cheat The People. Their aim is to steal our common property, safety, possessions, and money to enrich themselves.

The first was the fake Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs) rich developers created in Texas subdivisions to try to steal land and tax The People to pay for things that are the developers' responsibility--like sewer plants, roads, etc. The second was about a private business which plotted with Texas Highway Department (TxDot) officials to use our state government's right to imminent domain. This most recent business owner planned to use that stolen right for personal gain--which is clearly against the law.

If readers know of other such scams, please let me know about them. We must band together to protect ourselves.

Cheryl Gilpin holds a Master of Science degree in Geosciences/Oceanography. She was elected to represent New Braunfels, Texas in Comal County as an Edwards Aquifer Authority Director. She shared a link to clarify problems we are experiencing in Central Texas with water safety, access, protections...and ways people-in-charge have misused their power. Gilpin explains that the Texas Legislature, politicians, powerful, moneyed landowners, board members and utility employees have manipulated The People's water supply. The purest water is often sold to industry for a much higher price, leaving the populace less-pure water to drink.

To show the depth of betrayal I'm providing a link to an April 26, 2007 story (http://www.tpj.org/2007/04/til-your-well-runs-dry-how-state-of.html?m=1 ) in Texans for Public Justice's Watch Your Assets newsletter, subtitled "Exposing the misuse and abuse of the public commons," Project Director Lauren Reinlie comments,

(This is) the first installment of (our) new series investigating abuses and misuses of public assets for private gain. Each month "Watch Your Assets" will expose ways in which private interests benefit from resources that should be protected for the public good. The first issue... reports that at a time when Texas' water supply is stretched to the breaking point--the state has converted Central Texas' Edwards Aquifer into a multi-million dollar commodity that is being auctioned off for private gain....Please send feedback as we develop this new project to http://info.tpj.org/watchyourassets/aquifer/index.html.

This report will help you understand the urgency of this situation and of Gilpin's letter to the New Braunfels, Texas City Council.

The story begins,

'Til Your Well Runs Dry

Responding to a federal lawsuit, the state of Texas created an agency in 1993 to regulate water withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer. Running in a 160-mile arc from Austin through San Antonio and west to Kinney County, this underground (aquifer) feeds the Guadalupe River and the San Marcos and Comal Springs. It sustains the lives of millions of Central Texans - and sundry other life forms. Under the so-called "rule of capture," landowners previously could take as much water as the aquifer yielded, even if this consumption sucked their neighbor's well, springs or river dry.

And it ends with these words,

The EAA and its board members have not done a good job of ensuring that board's campaign finances are disclosed and transparent. The EAA does not yet appear to be an agency that has been completely captured by the industry it regulates. But the risk of such a takeover exists.

Through interviews with permit holders, researchers for this project learned that the first permit database that the agency provided under the Texas Public Information Act contained erroneous pumping data. Agency officials also repeatedly expressed reluctance to provide basic information for this report.... This is an agency that is not accustomed to much public scrutiny and does not welcome it. As water supplies fall and water prices rise, the EAA's importance will increase dramatically. The price of an EAA board seat will escalate and permit holders will have the greatest incentive to cultivate EAA influence. The Edwards Aquifer Authority--which was created as an antidote to the rule of capture--needs to strengthen its democratic institutions to escape being captured itself.

Gilpin also told me that local indigenous peoples and their water rights have been ignored.

"The Herald-Zeitung article "New Braunfels City Council gets update on aquifer water storage system," (http://herald-zeitung.com/search/?t=article&s=start_time&sd=desc&q=New+Braunfels+City+Council+gets+update+on+aquifer+water+storage+system 6-28-16, 1A ) told about New Braunfels Utility's (NBU) Aquifer Storage and Recovery's (ASR) presentation to the City Council. NBU is presenting a new type of ASR that could be harmful to our water supply.

Here's what NBU's ASR plans to do. They want to inject 14,000 acre feet of pure Edwards drinking water from NBU's well into a karst formation which holds the brackish (highly saline) part of the Edwards Aquifer's groundwater. Then it plans to retrieve this water during critically low aquifer levels to use for our drinking water supply. The EAA permit for ASR allows applicants, like NBU to do their own feasibility studies instead of having them done by the best state and region experts who are accountable for protecting the public. The city of NB is getting a TWDB loan for this work. A more accountable-feasibility-study must be done by some very good experts to obtain that loan.

NBU and their consultant incorrectly stated that this type of ASR has been used by San Antonio Water System (SAWS) to store 120,000 acre feet of water in a brackish part of the Edwards Aquifer. In fact, that is different. That ASR project injects freshwater into a freshwater part of the Carizzo Sands Aquifer for storage...not into a brackish part of the karst Edwards Aquifer.

The public needs to know that injecting fresh water into a confined karst aquifer's brackish zone may create an unpredictable, disjointed, movable, and difficult to monitor zone of water that is a mix of good and bad water negatively impacting our fresh underground water supply.

This type of project was presented as "common place" in the meeting. I questioned that and the ASR consultant admitted the only other place he knew of ASR projects injecting freshwater into a brackish karst aquifer was in Florida. In Florida the displaced brackish water moves out into the ocean. That is not the case for the Edwards Aquifer where displaced bad water may move into fresh drinking water supply wells and springs. Note: If 14,000 acre feet of water were on top of a single football field it would be almost 3 miles deep.

Not only is this type of ASR new and untested, its feasibility and impact studies have to be done carefully so injection experiments will not harm the freshwater part of the aquifer or our springs. These impact studies have not started yet and they will take several years. Despite that fact, the consultant led the City Council to think this project was "determined to be feasible" and gave an unrealistic start time.

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) told me that the geological feasibility study was not yet started...and it would take at least 18-24 months. I was told that no injection or water-chemistry- impact-studies could start until after a geological feasibility study determines whether it is safe to test.

After I voiced these concerns at the meeting, Mr. Wolf gave his comments in support of the project. Wolf wanted the City to pay to put some wells on private property of nearby cooperative landowners and contract to do our own city injection testing without waiting for a feasibility study to see if it's safe to do so. That is not being cautious or careful!

Remember the problems in Flint, Michigan which resulted from skipping steps that would have protected the public! This decision to take risks with such an unproven and questionable way to inject and recover water for our drinking water supply may be the decision to risk New Braunfels citizens' health and costs and taxes on the same scale as the Flint crisis.

I urge citizens to insist that our City Council and NBU must not try to do injection testing before we know it's safe. They must allow impact studies to be done by state experts who are accountable for protecting us. This is important for protection of our public groundwater supply.

Our leaders must keep citizens' interest as their top priority! Please call me to arrange a time to meet at NB library to discuss this matter."

Sincerely, Cheryl Gilpin

This is the last concern Gilpin shared with me: "The recovery aspect of ASR involves permits to acquire more pumping rights...so the majority of EAA directors passed the ASR rules to use the Edwards karst in spite of dangers to The People's health and in order to give themselves more groundwater in the form of Recovery Permits. Thus they avoided accountability by allowing applicants to use their own engineering regardless of feasibility and how much they could recover."

Gilpin would welcome your comments and questions at seacheyl@gmail.com .

I believe an extensive investigation of this situation is in order...to protect The People's right to pure drinking water at a reasonable price.

Please let me know how you feel about these problems. Together we may be able to protect ourselves and other innocents.

And let your public officials know how you feel about corruption. Use your vote to get rid of known corrupt elected officials and to elect candidates who truly care about-and will protect--The People they represent.