Meeting Highlights Tensions Over Corpus Christi Desalination Plant


Protests Kick Off Discussion from Meeting

In a display of genuine opposition, environmental activists staged a protest at the American Bank Center on Thursday, where the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) hosted a public comment meeting. The meeting focused on the City of Corpus Christi’s Inner Harbor Seawater Desalination Plant, particularly concerning its discharge permit from the desalination process.

Conflict and Controversy at the Meeting

The meeting quickly became contentious as the protesters, vocal about their opposition to seawater desalination in Corpus Christi, made their presence felt. Their spirited demonstration led to numerous interruptions throughout the proceedings, challenging the established rules of etiquette. The proposed desalination plant, intended to be located in the Hillcrest Neighborhood, would have the capacity to produce 30 million gallons of water per day. Since 2020, the city has been awaiting approval on several necessary permits, including the discharge permit, which stipulates that the city would not exceed 51.5 million gallons per day of water treatment waste upon the facility’s completion.

Structured Responses and Diverse Opinions

The TCEQ facilitated an informal question and answer session, followed by a formal comment period where they recorded public opinions for consideration regarding the permit. More than 100 attendees voiced their perspectives, showcasing a divide in community sentiment.

Supporters of the permit argued for the need to embrace seawater desalinization, citing its successful implementation in other global cities and the urgency to diversify Texas’s water sources beyond groundwater. Darcy Schroeder highlighted, “It’s time for Texas to move forward with a water supply source other than groundwater.”

Conversely, opponents raised significant environmental concerns about the potential impacts of discharging brine into local waters. City Council Members Sylvia Campos, Jim Klein, and other participants stressed the need for a comprehensive environmental impact study before proceeding. “We need a full-blown environmental impact study to determine the consequences of this project. Without that, we must reject this permit,” Klein, representing the Sierra Club, remarked.

Economic and Community Concerns

Critics also argued that the desalination plant would primarily benefit industrial users of Corpus Christi Water, though no city officials have confirmed this claim. Residents fear that they will bear the cost of the plant through higher taxes and water bills. “The desal plant would only benefit heavy industry, yet they expect residents to pay for it with higher taxes and higher water bills,” Patty Jones stated.

Furthermore, the Hillcrest community has expressed strong opposition, worried about the potential health and safety risks the plant could pose. Jones also mentioned a pending Title 6 complaint against the city for environmental racism, highlighting the lack of public hearings in the affected neighborhood.

Uncertainty Ahead

During the meeting, no one made any decisions, and the fate of the discharge permit remains undecided. Drew Molly, Chief Operating Officer of Corpus Christi Water, confirmed that they have yet to establish a schedule for a decisive meeting. “There’s no telling when we will schedule that meeting,” said Molly, indicating ongoing uncertainty about the project’s progress.

This meeting underscored the complex balance between development and environmental stewardship, with the community sharply divided on the best path forward for Corpus Christi’s water management and growth.

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