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Battle Continues Between Hill Country Summer Camp And Surrounding Property Owners Over Waste Water

Dozens of residents attended a meeting at the old Tarpley school house regarding a nearby Christian summer camp receiving state water permits.
Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Publi Radio
Dozens of residents attended a meeting at the old Tarpley school house regarding a nearby Christian summer camp receiving state water permits.

Dozens of residents packed the old Tarpley school house in Bandera County on Sunday to continue their efforts to block a Christian summer camp from receiving state water permits they claim will harm a creek and threaten water wells. 

More than 500 complaints have been lodged with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality against the camp's plans to discharge up to 49,000 gallons of treated wastewater into Commissioners Creek, according to Margo Denke, the secretary and treasurer of Friends of Hondo Canyon. 

The organization is leading the fight against the camp permits and hosted the meeting at the old school house.

The camp is also seeking approval to impound enough water to keep recreational lakes full and to operate water slides, according to Denke.  

Denke said another proposed permit for pumping treated wastewater into the creek will create algae blooms, known to spoil water quality and kill off aquatic life.

Another area resident at the meeting, Delia Reyes, had another concern.  She fears the treated waste water could seep into underground wells.

"There's no boundaries in any waters underneath the ground," she said.  "My concern is I don't know how it will impact our well water."

She said the camps's permit request to water from the creek to keep its recreational lakes full would put a strain on water wells of area property owners.  She said the amount of water they are seeking could fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools each summer.

"Our concern is if you draw down that much water, what is going to happen to the well water of your neighbors?" she said.

Friends of Hondo Canyon are trying to win a contested hearing before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which amounts to a back and forth paperwork battle of complaints from residents and responses from the state.  It is the TCEQ which can grant or deny the permits, but Denke said they are ready for a legal battle too.

Denke said they should to get answer about whether a contest hearing is going to happen by Dec. 2.

Denke urged those attending the meeting to write the TCEQ and contact area local and state legislators to get more political support.

The camp, operated by Sam Torn, is expected to open with 200 campers initially and grow to 400 eventually.
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | TPR
The camp, operated by Sam Torn, is expected to open with 200 campers initially and grow to 400 eventually.

Sam Torn, the operator of the camp expected to open in the summer, told Texas Public Radio News in a previous interview he wants to be a good neighbor, create jobs and operate a wholesome business.   

He said he believes he can reuse most of the treated wastewater on landscaping and not discharge into the creek.  But property owners said his proposed permit only requires him to reuse 75% of the treated waste water on land uses.

They said any discharge of treated wastewater into the creek is not acceptable.

The camp is expected to open with 200 campers initially and grow to 400 eventually.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.