GRAY FOREST, Texas – Residents of Gray Forest are concerned about plans for new development that could impact not only Helotes Creek, but also the Edwards Aquifer.
Randy Neumann, who has lived in Gray Forest for 40 years, said he has been taking his children and grandchildren swimming in Helotes Creek for years.
“Probably some of the happiest memories I have are when I was a kid swimming in that crystal clear water,” Neumann said.
However, swimming in the hidden cove might be a thing of the past.
Lennar Homes plans to build 2,900 homes on 1,160 acres in a watershed above the Edwards Aquifer, located just north of Gray Forest. The Guajolote Ranch property is located in northwest Bexar County, approximately five miles north of Helotes, less than two miles north of Gray Forest, and just over five miles northwest of San Antonio. .
Lennar Home sent a applied for permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to build its own wastewater treatment facility and pump up to one million gallons of treated wastewater per day into Helotes Creek.
Nathan Glavy of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance said the organization is concerned that Helotes Creek is on a recharge area of the Edwards Aquifer.
“We’re raising a lot more environmental concerns around, you know, recharge rates and pollution and drains in our recharge area, and in particular the Edward Aquifer, which we still rely heavily on to respond. more than half of our city’s water needs,” said Glavy.
In 2020, the Southwest Research Institute conducted a study on how sewage disposal affects the Edward Aquifer. Helotes Creek was chosen because it is both a contributing area and a recharge area. Using water samples, the study concluded that any sewage supply could negatively impact the water quality of the aquifer.
GEAA Executive Director Analisa Peace said if Guajolote Ranch starts pumping sewage into the creek, it could set a precedent for other developers to potentially contaminate water flowing into the aquifer. . Currently, the water in the aquifer is clean, but Peace said it would be costly to reverse any treated water that enters it.
“If we reach the threshold where it does not meet drinking water standards, it would cost SAWS ratepayers billions of dollars to pre-treat this water before it is distributed. So I guess we have a really wonderful system and we should protect it,” Peace said.
Peace said GEAA recently settled a court case with Lennar for violating his TCEQ agreement in a Bulverde subdivision.
In Bulverde, where Lennar recently completed its 4S Ranch development, GEAA and Bulverde Neighborhood Alliance (BNA) had in 2019 filed a notice of intent to sue in an effort to get Lennar to comply with a 2016 agreement to avoid flooding his neighbors and protect a large recharge cave on the property.
Then came a torrential downpour in October 2019, when a deluge of rainwater laden with mud and construction debris poured from the 4S Ranch onto a nearby property.
“This facility would be led by Lennar. It’s a bit like the fox guarding the chicken coop. And so we just can’t believe that this will really eliminate all chemicals, all pharmaceuticals. This water will flow over the land and down into the aquifer,” said Gray Forest resident Michael Schnick.
Valuation documents show that the land has not yet been purchased by Lennar Homes.
“Once they get their approvals for the sewage treatment plant or this or that, then they will move forward and make progress,” Peace said.
Lennar Homes declined to comment for this report.
“You do it for a developer and then you start doing it for everyone. And before you know it, you have irreversible damage to the water system,” Schnick said. “It’s not anti-development. It is anti-healthy development, anti-dangerous development, anti-negligent development.
GEAA has filed a petition which you can read here.
You can view the permit application for the Guajolote Ranch property below:
Copyright 2022 by KSAT – All rights reserved.