TCEQ approves Corpus Christi desalination permit; EPA may say no
The Port of Corpus Christi cleared a major hurdle but faces yet another in its plans for a desalination plant at Harbor Island. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently approved the port’s request for a wastewater discharge permit. Earlier in September, the TCEQ delayed a vote on the permit, stating it needed additional time to make its decision.
However, the issue is far from settled. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might opt to reject the permit on the grounds it has not had the opportunity to give the application a thorough federal review.
The EPA, in a September letter to the TCEQ, advised that the state agency had erroneously classified the port’s project as a “minor facility,” which would not be subject to EPA oversight. In addition, the federal agency said its input would be mandatory for approval of any desalination wastewater permits.
The wastewater permit would allow the plant to discharge brine waste from the proposed Harbor Island plant. When desalination plants process seawater by reverse osmosis, 58 percent of each gallon processed is returned to the sea as brine waste. The port projects it would process about 50 million gallons of water per day.
The Port of Corpus Christi will still need a water rights permit that allows it to draw seawater from a specific location. Thus far, the port has not filed that application.
Proponents of the plant claim additional sources of water are needed to meet increasing demand, especially during severe droughts. Those opposing the project express concerns that releases of salty wastewater could harm marine life in the bay system, although some have said they would not oppose a plant located offshore.
The city of Corpus Christi is planning a desalination plant of its own at the Inner Harbor of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that the city had not applied for a TCEQ grant for a desalination, but one is currently under consideration. Corpus Christi Business News regrets the error.
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