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EPA removes waiver on Port's Harbor Island desal permit

The Port of Corpus Christi has proposed a desalination plant for Harbor Island
Posted at 7:09 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 20:11:10-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn a memorandum of understanding it entered into with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding the Port of Corpus Christi's application for a desalination plant on Harbor Island.

The Memorandum of understanding (MOU) provided for a waiver of review by the EPA with regard to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

However, in a letter sent to TCEQ and the Port on Monday, the EPA said that it is the job of the organization to ensure that state-issued permits "are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and protective of water quality and aquatic life."

As such it provided notice that the waiver was rescinded.

The EPA says the facility was classified as minor by TCEQ and because of that it was not forwarded to the EPA for review.

"However, the EPA Region 6, is aware of the concerns over TCEQ’s permitting process with regard to this permit as well as the impacts of the proposed discharge to aquatic life, the water quality of the receiving waterbody Corpus Christi Bay, and the TCEQ’s overall permit development and issuance process," the letter states.

It sites the State Office of Administrative Hearing (SOAH) contested case hearing last year, and the recommendation of the SOAH Judge to deny the permit. TCEQ Commissioners signed an interim order in May that remanded that permit back to SOAH.

The EPA says that remanding resulted in a revised draft permit. It has requested a copy of the original application, as well as the revised application within ten days of receipt of the letter.

The TCEQ responded Thursday with this statement:

"TCEQ is in receipt of and reviewing EPA’s letter. Since EPA authorized delegation of the NPDES program to Texas in 1998, the agency has maintained a robust permitting program, which includes public participation at multiple junctures throughout the permitting process. The agency received the draft application on March 7, 2018, and have worked diligently to include the public according to long-accepted administrative procedures. EPA has had every opportunity since March 2018 to engage in the process and has chosen not to provide comments or participate in discussions regarding the permit in a timely manner."

KRIS 6 NEWS reached out to the Port of Corpus Christi Wednesday for comment. As of publication, the Port has yet to respond.