Solution

 

Land Application and Beneficial Reuse

Two alternatives to direct discharge are available with the state permitting agency (TCEQ): land application and beneficial reuse. Land application simply means using wastewater effluent in a dedicated irrigation field and allowing soil and plants to further treat the effluent. Subsurface irrigation of the field is best. Soil systems can often provide superior and much more cost-effective treatment for many domestic wastewater pollutants, including pharmaceuticals and personal care products.1

Beneficial reuse occurs when treated effluent is used to replace potable water use. Most commonly this is done on landscaping such as medians, parks, and ball-fields. With good pre-planning, water could also be used inside buildings, for example to flush toilets.

 

Decentralized Technologies and Small Scale Solutions

Aggregating large quantities of wastewater has its problems regardless of what is done with the effluent. Aggregation means that failures such as pipes breaking and pump station failures lead to larger spills. It also takes more energy to pump wastewater further. There are excellent community-scale wastewater technologies that are available. Wastewater can be dealt with closer to the source!

The images below show non-obtrusive contained wastewater treatment for a community of several dozen homes. There are similar systems that can be used for larger communities. These smaller facilities can be hidden by landscaping. When paired with beneficial reuse, these systems provide a great service for communities without polluting our pristine hill country creeks.

1Effectiveness and Utility of Surface Application and Soil Percolation for Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products; Final Report to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: Texas Onsite Wastewater Treatment Research Council; Fedler, Amoli, Andersen and Cai, Texas Tech University, 2012. [https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/compliance/compliance_support/regulatory/ossf/EffectivenessUtilSAforPharmPersonalCare.pdf]