Summer Changes

Our summer has brought a number of changes including that of our EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt who tendered his resignation on July 6 and has been replaced by Andrew Wheeler. EPA HQ, EPA R6, and TCEQ will no doubt continue the critically important business of protecting human health and the environment alongside our WEAT members, but will be operating under different leadership. Speaking of leadership, all eyes are on the Speaker of the House position as we are still eagerly awaiting to learn who will fill this gap. Whomever it may be, they have big shoes to fill as Speaker Straus, who hails from the great water city of San Antonio, was strong on water quality issues and leadership. As we move closer to November, we’ll have a better understanding of who may assume leadership of the House and consequently the leadership of our House Committees that determine water quality law. The Committees we will most closely be watching for composition and leadership include the House Environmental Committee that is currently chaired by Representative Joe Pickett (D, El Paso), House Natural Resources Committee that is currently chaired by Representative Larson, (R, San Antonio).

If you’re one of those that’s interested in jumping in on inside baseball type conversations, attend the Water Environment Horizon Conference on November 8, in Austin Texas. Chairman Charles Perry of the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee has been invited to speak as well as House Natural Resources Committee member Representative DeWayne Burns. TWDB Board member Brooke Paup is also an invited speaker. L’Oreal Stepney of the TCEQ has confirmed as well as utility directors and decision makers from around the state. In addition to lawmakers, regulators, and a NACWA representative speaking to federal legislative and regulatory issues, we will hold three panel discussions. Panel topics include; The New Normal Post Harvey, The State of Biosolids in the Lone Star State, and A Day in the Life of a Utility Director. Scheduled just two days after the election day, the Horizon Conference is sure to give you invaluable information from those that craft, enforce, and seek permits pertaining to water quality mandates in Texas. To recap from previous articles, these are the dates to watch with regard to the 140 days that make up the Texas’ 86th Legislative Session.

  • November 6, 2018: Election Day
  • November 8, 2018: Water Environment Horizon Conference
  • November 12, 2018: Bill Pre-filing
  • January 8, 2019: 86th Legislature Convenes, session begins
  • March 8, 2019: (60th day) bill filing and joint resolution filing deadline
  • May 27, 2019 (140th day) Sine die, last day of regular session

While we’re waiting for clarity on Texas House leadership, we are also eagerly awaiting to hear who will be named the next Executive Director of the TCEQ. At the time of writing this, Stephanie Bergeron-Perdue is serving as the interim Executive Director and has been since Richard Hyde retired in February, 2018. We know the TCEQ will continue to provide strong guidance to Texas’ regulated community, but the preeminent question is, will the next Executive Director be as familiar with water quality issues as was Director Hyde? Or, will they need time to get to know the inner workings of the TCEQ and issues on the table, like biosolids rulewriting.

Speaking of biosolids, as I often do, the concept memo on Chapter 312 rules has been signed and rulewriting will continue through the fall and winter. The timing is still a bit uncertain, but keep your eyes and ears open for a proposal date in November or December and the 30 day public comment period to commence soon thereafter. Matt Berg is our current Biosolids Committee Chair and ascended from Vice Chair to Chair in April 2018. He is picking up and carrying the forward momentum and strong leadership Sherri Van der Wege provided during her tenure as Committee Chair. If you would like to chip in and help craft WEAT’s formal comments on the rulewriting, please join the committee by going to and fhit the “Join Committee” button. As a recap, the primary issues the TCEQ will be addressing during the rulewriting period include:

  • Clarify the existing prohibition on the land application of any mixture of domestic sewage sludge with grit trap or grease trap waste
  • Clarify requirements to maintain buffer zones
  • Clarify the applicability of an individual permit requirement for a processing facility
  • Update metal concentration limits consistent with 40 Code of Federal Regulations Part 503
  • Clarify the applicability of storage and staging requirements to domestic septage and water treatment plant residuals
  • Add requirements for the land application of water treatment plant residuals consistent with longstanding TCEQ practice
  • Clarify the notification requirement for landowners within ¼ mile of a Class B land application unit
  • Include the use of the term “biosolids” as it pertains to beneficial land application of treated domestic sewage sludge (Class A, Class AB and Class B)
  • Rename Water Treatment Plant Sludge as Water Treatment Plant Residuals
  • Revise existing definitions as needed based on Stakeholder input

Not all that WEAT does or who we are is easily bulleted out or lends itself to a conference, CEU activity, or commenting and documenting legislative and/or regulatory changes. There are a number of intangibles that make WEAT invaluable as an organization blazing a trail for positive change and invaluable to individual members through inspiration. One of these intangibles is the deep connection WEAT fosters between like minded folks doing good work and thinking big thoughts around water. I attended the Catalyst Conference 2018 produced by the communicatively gifted Arianne Shipley and Stephanie Zavala women of Rogue Water earlier this summer, which WEAT co-sponsored. The conference gave me inspiration, tools, and a great deal of reflection on, well, communication beyond this wonderful group of water quality nerds/workers/brilliant thinkers that comprise WEAT. Just as the conference title conveyed, I want to practice being a catalyst. Therefore, I’ve been practicing my water quality storytelling and raising others’ water IQ. And now, as we’re approaching the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, we have an auspicious mandate to think about water. How we manage our resources in both great abundance and deleterious drought will help write our water legacy. And how we communicate the value water and influence, as well as educate, our neighbors, friends, and family will help shape the water landscape for generations to come. So be the catalyst for water quality influence and education. Raise a glass of and your voice for water!

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