City officials from Waco, Texas and neighbors of the dairies located in the North Bosque River watershed expressed their concerns that a plan to reduce phosphorus in the river by 50 percent doesn’t do enough.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has developed a plan to reduce phosphorus in the North Bosque River by 50 percent. However, not everyone thinks the plan goes far enough.

Officials from the city of Waco, (the North Bosque River feeds Lake Waco which is the city’s water supply) and area residents attended a public hearing yesterday to voice their concerns about the plan. They all agree the river must be cleaned up, but the concern is that the plan only lists voluntary provisions for large dairies in the watershed to follow. The only mandatory requirements are for municipal wastewater treatment plants within the watershed.

State Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, was among those who testified at the hearing. In addition to the concerns of only voluntary measures for livestock operations, the senator said the plan also must reflect that progress is being made once corrective actions are in place.

"We are concerned that the implementation plan we have is aggressive in producing verifiable results," said Averitt to the Waco Tribune-Herald. "We need to have some accountability and we need to measure the results during the time we're going through the process. If we don't have quantifiable results we're going to be doing this forever."

Jane Mashek, an aide to State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, read a letter from Dunnam at the hearing which made the point that the TCEQ's own studies show that it is the dairies which contribute 80 percent of the phosphorus in the North Bosque river. But the only requirements of the plan as written are aimed at municipal wastewater treatment plants who account for just 20 percent of the total phosphorus in the river.

While the plan was being developed, officials from cities in the watershed — Stephenville, Iredell, Clifton, Valley Mills, Cranfills Gap, Meridian and Hico — had expressed concerns to the TCEQ that the plan would mandate phosphorus limits on wastewater plants that would lead to expensive modifications that the cities could not afford.

Other concerns voiced at the meeting include the fact that the plan does not address dairy manure washing into the river during periods of heavy rainfall and that the bacteria E.coli which can also leach into the river with manure runoff from the dairies was not even addressed. It’s that runoff, especially during storms, that carries phosphorus contained in the manure into the river which leads to algae blooms and a decline of the drinking water quality in Lake Waco.

The Waco Tribune-Herald