News Briefs

PCB fish study could get underway

Two years after the Texas Department of Health issued a fish-consumption ban for parts of Lower Leon Creek, the San Antonio River Authority has funds to begin testing the waterway.

According to SARA spokesperson Erika Resendiz, the authority's board recently approved $125,000 for the Leon Creek PCB study, which requires TDH approval. SARA is also seeking state and federal matching funds to expand the scope of its water-quality studies.

During state-mandated monitoring in August 2002, the Air Force detected elevated levels of PCBs in fish - some as high as 15 times the maximum threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency; a year later, the TDH issued the consumption ban in a section of the creek south of Highway 90 to S.W. Military Drive. `See "Carp with a side of arochlor," September 11-17, 2003; "Air Force dismisses fuss over fish," September 18-23, 2003.`

Contaminated groundwater beneath Kelly Air Force Base, part of which was transferred to Lackland during the last base realignment, could be a PCB source. PCBs have been detected in soil at Kelly where solvents and transformers were stored.

PCBs were widely used as coolants in industrial transformers; they were banned in 1977 but persist in the environment. They are considered a potential carcinogen and can damage neurological, reproductive, and immune systems.

However, Air Force and state environmental officials have stressed that they don't know the source of the contaminated fish. At Lackland's Community Council Restoration meeting on July 20, the TCEQ's Abbi Power said the state is looking at the former Levi's plant and other area industrial sites to determine possible contamination sources.

Lackland officials also announced the Air Force continues to clean up and identify contaminated areas at the base, its training annex, and the old Kelly Annex, including 14 former landfills, two World War I-era bombing ranges, and nine potential low-level radiation disposal sites.

Lackland officials also acknowledged that "a communication breakdown" caused the Air Force to be cited for failure to have Stormwater Pollution Prevention and Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone plans during construction of a simulated city for training exercises at Camp Bullis.

Construction stopped until the plans received approval from the state and the Edwards Aquifer Authority.

The 4,700-acre Camp Bullis is a military training ground, primarily for the Army. However, the Air Force, which provided vehicle convoy drivers for a mission in Iraq, had to train at Camp Bullis at a Basic Combat Convey Course built by an out-of-state reserve unit. Because of an oversight by the different military branches involved in the training, the plans weren't filed.

- Lisa Sorg

Water plan gets hot reception

Dozens of Wilson County and South Texas residents crowded into a downtown hotel conference room last Thursday to lambaste the South Central Texas Regional Water (Region L) Planning Group for its initial 50-year water plan.

Region L covers 21 counties and three watersheds. Statewide, 16 water-planning groups are assessing water needs for their regions through 2060.

The plan, which can be viewed at, will be sent to the Texas Legislature as the state's guiding document. Lawmakers will not vote on it.

Some of the initial projects through 2010 include conservation, expansion of recycled-water programs, groundwater transfers, and desalination of brackish groundwater. By 2060, the plan calls for converting seawater to drinking water.

But the plan to divert 11,000 acre-feet from the Carrizo aquifer in Wilson County to the San Antonio Water System has enraged southern neighbors.

Wilson County resident Diane Savage distributed a handout detailing concerns about the plan. "There is an obvious need for water for the cattle to drink (25 gallons per day/per cow) and water to irrigate the feed crops. So how does Region L expect agriculture to respond and prosper if there is no available water?"

Drawdowns from proposed pumping projects could dry up springs that flow into Cibolo Creek. That leaves only wastewater to flow downstream from Schertz and to exurbs such as Sutherland Springs, Stockdale, Floresville, and other towns to the south.

"The loss of the springs will drastically change the quality of the water as well as the quality of the environmental habitat all along the Cibolo Creek into the San Antonio River Basin," Savage's statement read.

Stockdale rancher Glenda Layton criticized a study that shows San Antonio needs Wilson County's water and contends the city is not doing enough to conserve water.

However, San Antonio has a statewide reputation as one of the most progressive cities when it comes to water conservation. The City's 2005 Water Conservation Ordinance could save as much as 1.3 billion gallons of water each year. In 1984, San Antonians used 179 gallons of water per person, per day; by 2000, that daily amount had dropped to 136 gallons.

Savage said Wilson County activists haven't missed a water-planning meeting in six years. "We don't mess around."

- Michael Cary

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