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'Stuff' happens in Bandera - & we might sell it

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The City of Bandera has finally gotten an opportunity to squeeze some money out of the current fracking boom - even if just through the back door.

Officials from Alpha Reclaim Technology LLC recently approached City Administrator Mike Cardenas with a proposal to purchase treated effluent from the municipality.

Treated effluent is sewage from which contaminants have been removed. The process removes physical, chemical and biological contaminants and produces both an environmentally safe fluid waste stream - treated effluent - and a solid waste - treated sludge - suitable for disposal or reuse.

"The company would set up storage tanks on the grounds of the water treatment facility to collect the effluent. They would pay for the effluent and for transporting it," Cardenas told city council on Thursday, August 16. The effluent would be used in fracking operations currently underway in South Texas.

However, as one councilman pointed out, there has "been some movement in that direction" in Tarpley and Utopia.

At present, the city releases the treated effluent into the Medina River. According to Cardenas, the city generates from 130,000 to 150,000 gallons daily.

"Early in 2012, company officials had asked the former city administration about purchasing the effluent but were told the city wasn't interested," Cardenas said. Before bringing the proposal before city council, the former mayor and city administrator apparently dismissed the proposition out of hand.

"I think this is a pretty good deal.

Alpha Reclaim Technology would pay a $900 fee to secure the contract and $91,432 per year to buy 100 percent of the treated effluent," Cardenas explained. Jourdanton, Poteet and Beeville, among other cities, have already contracted with the company, which is now purchasing 5 million gallons of effluent each day.

"There is pressure on the oil companies to stop using groundwater in the fracking process," said Councilman Binky Archer.

"This would be an excellent alternative," Cardenas noted - and a great PR move.

He also said that the road into the wastewater treatment facility would need to be improved to withstand daily truck traffic. "That's something the city council could negotiate with the oil company," Cardenas said.

City resident Jim Hannah asked if communities downstream from Bandera had been consulted about the proposal, intimating they might be affected by the loss of river water.

"Do you think they might be disappointed that we might not dump 125,000 gallons of our treated effluent into the river each day?"

rejoined Councilman John Hegemier.

According to David Mauk, general manager for the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District, the communities of Lakehills, Mico and Castroville might instead be somewhat relieved. "Despite being treated, the effluent is protein-rich and that causes algae to grow choking off oxygen to fish and other aquatic life," he said. "I would think the communities might actually be grateful."

Reaching a consensus, council asked Cardenas to invite a representative of Alpha Reclaim Technology to do a presentation on the company's proposal at a future meeting.

"We're always looking at ways to increase our revenue. That money could be used to replace wastewater lines and also put a lot of money back in the water treatment budget," Cardenas said.