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Dairy Farms, continued from page 13 Leon River is part of a crippled watershed. The stream flows into the Leon River, which leads to Lake Beltonthe sole drinking water source for the Killeen-Temple-Belton area. And the watershed is dying. In the mid-1990s, the EPA designated a 125-mile chunk of the Leon River as impaired, after finding elevated levels of fecal matter in the water. In its 1994 State of Texas Water Quality Inventory, the TNRCC ranked this Leon River segment, which sits below Proctor Lake and above Lake Belton, as the ninth most polluted water body among the 366 classified statewidea shockingly high ranking considering many Texans have probably never heard of the Leon River. And that was eight years ago. Numerous studies have labeled dairy runoff as the primary cause of high fecal matter in the Leon, including a 1998 TNRCC report stating that the Leon. River’s poor water-quality designation was “attributed to… runoff from dairies.” Yet the TNRCC continues to allow dairy expansion along the Leon River watershed, despite mounting evidence that the river is suffering and despite the looming threat to Lake Belton’s drinking water. That’s not only environmentally reckless, critics charge, it’s illegal. Their reasoning delves into the complex lexicon of environmental law, but essentially their argument is this: The 1972 Federal Clean Water Act expressly forbids adding pollution to an already-impaired waterway. That means once the Leon was classified as impaired, it became the TNRCC’s job to ensure that pollution got no worse until regulators devised a clean-up plan. \(The plan for the Leon must be comThe EPA Region 6 office in Dallas agrees, at least in part, with that assessment. In a December 21, 1999 memo, the EPA water quality protection division in Dallas instructed TNRCC executive director Jeffrey Saitas not to issue “draft permits for new or expanding dischargers on an impaired [river] segment, and which have the potential to discharge any pollutant which is causing or contributing to the impairment.” The letter says that to ensure no further damage to an impaired river, as required by the Clean Water Act, the state cannot issue permits for new or expanding dairies without EPA review and permission; the TNRCC can only renew existing permits. Those standards clearly apply to dairies along the Leon River, says Austin environmental attorney Stuart Henry, who is representing a group of landowners in the region. The Leon River is impaired for fecal matter, he says, which expanding dairies clearly have the “potential” to discharge. Henry notes that if Wildcat Dairy, for example, is allowed to expand to 4,000 cows, it would need to build more stalls for the cows, more lagoons to hold manure wastewater, and more crop fields for wastewater fertilizing. That means the next time a “chronic” rain event strikes, Wildcat Dairy could hemorrhage that much more fecal matter into the Leon watershed.”That,” Henry says, “is definitely a new source [of pollution],” exactly what’s forbidden by the Clean Water Act. Despite the legal questions, TNRCC has granted permits for 30 new or expanding dairies along the impaired chunk of the Leon River since 1999, according to agency records, adding hundreds of thousands of cows to the watershed. For its part, the TNRCC contends that larger dairies aren’t necessarily new sources of pollution. “To make a blanket statement that the Classical Guitar Alive! Great music and fascinating interviews with many of the world’s leading guitar performers and composers. Join host Tony Morris for Classical Guitar Alive!, an unabashedly enthusiastic and fast-paced romp through the classical repertory of the world’s most popular musical instrument. Classical Guitar Alive!, the only nationally-broadcast guitar radio program in America. Saturdays 7-8pm & Wednesdays 2-3am on KMFA Classical 89.5. The Voice of the Arts for Ckntrai loos. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7/19/02