Skip to Content
Questions or Comments:

Permits for Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants: Learning More

Learn more about following our progress and your options for participating as we review applications for municipal wastewater treatment permits. Find out how a domestic wastewater plant operates to protect your health and the environment.

What is a municipal wastewater treatment plant?

Homes, schools, and businesses generate domestic wastewater. A municipal wastewater treatment plant cleans this water before releasing it back to the environment.

When the municipal plant has finished cleaning the water—cleaned water is called treated effluent—the plant will need to dispose of the effluent. The treatment plant can either dispose of the effluent by discharging it to a stream, lake, or other waterway, or applying the effluent to the land for beneficial uses. It can also be allowed to evaporate.

What will this permit do?

Wastewater permits are needed to manage the quality of surface water and groundwater. This permit sets limits on wastewater disposal activities. If the effluent disposal is to waters of the state, the permit is called a Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) permit and the effluent disposal is called a discharge. If the effluent disposal is for a beneficial land use, the permit is called a Texas Land Application Permit (TLAP) and the treated effluent is said to be disposed of on the effluent application site. The effluent limits and conditions in a wastewater permit are designed to maintain a water body’s designated uses, maintain groundwater quality, and to protect human health and aquatic life.

To determine wastewater disposal limits, we study the lakes, streams, and other surface water bodies in Texas to learn:

  • How the water bodies are used (or can be used)
  • How well the water bodies can tolerate added nutrients or pollutants
  • What restrictions we should place on new wastewater discharges to ensure that the water can continue to be used as it is currently used

When an applicant proposes to discharge wastewater into a body of water, we consider these factors and decide whether to issue the permit.

If we decide to issue a municipal wastewater permit, it will require the applicant to clean their wastewater to specific standards before:

  • discharging to a waterway (TPDES permit) or
  • applying to the land the treated water for beneficial uses, either as irrigation on the land or using a below-surface disposal method such as a drain field or drip disposal system (TLAP permit)

If there is an industrial wastewater component from businesses, we may also require special pretreatment to remove substances that cannot be processed by the municipal treatment plant.

By obtaining a permit, the owners and operators of the municipal wastewater plant agree to follow the permit requirements.

Who is applying?

When you see a public notice about a permit application, look at the first paragraph to find the name of the applicant.

If you do not see the notice published in a newspaper, you can find public notices on our website:

What else can I learn about the applicant?

You can learn about this applicant and their plans by contacting them directly. The last paragraph in the public notice will tell you how to contact the applicant.

We also have ways you can learn about this applicant's history with us — for example:

  • Other facilities they have permits for
  • Other businesses they are related to
  • Their environmental track record

How can I learn what other people think about this?

On our website you can search for information about comments others have made about this application. Under Step Three be sure to choose "Include all correspondence...".

What if I have more questions?

Our Public Education Program can help you find the status of applications and tell you more about our permitting processes.

Go back to top of page arrow Back to top

How can I follow the progress of an application for this permit?

Below is the basic process for a municipal wastewater treatment plant permit application.

Please note that due to the great number of different scenarios possible, we cannot cover all the details that could potentially apply. Here we give a basic description of your rights and responsibilities if you wish to become involved—just be aware that variations can occur.

  • First Notice: Publication of the Notice of Receipt of Application and Intent to Obtain Permit. We call this notice a "NORI" (norry). When our administrative review of the application is complete, we mail the NORI to the permit applicant for publishing. We also mail the NORI to a required mailing list of government officials and certain landowners.

    The NORI will tell you where you can look at a hard copy of the permit application.

    Once we mail the NORI, you may start giving us your comments. You may also request a public meeting or a contested case hearing (see Request a Contested Case Hearing, below), or request to be added to the mailing list for future notices.

    See more details on the NORI.
    See how to get added to the mailing list.

  • Second Notice: Mailing of the Notice of Application and Preliminary Decision. We call this a "NAPD" (nap-dee). When our technical review of the application is complete and our executive director has made a preliminary decision, we mail the NAPD to the permit applicant for publishing. We also mail it to a required mailing list of government officials and certain landowners. In addition, we mail it to anyone who submitted comments, requested a public meeting or contested case hearing, or requested to be on the mailing list for future notices.

    The public comment period typically ends 30 days from the publication date of the NAPD. The publication date is significant because we only consider timely filed comments. However if our executive director has scheduled a public meeting for a later date, the comment period will be extended until the end of that public meeting. For assistance in determining the extent of the comment period, call 800-687-4040.

    See more details on this part of the process.

  • Making public comments. If you make a comment, you will get a response from us. Here's how it works:
    1. We gather all the comments given to us by the end of the public comment period and respond to all timely and relevant comments.
    2. When two or more people make the same comment, we put their comments together and make one response to that group of comments.
    3. When we have responded to all comments, we put all comments and our responses in a document called our "response to comments."
    4. We send this document to everyone who submitted a comment or requested to be put on the mailing list for future mailings.

    See more details on this part of the process, including how to make a comment.

  • Requesting a public meeting. In a public meeting, you may ask our staff and the applicant your questions and give comments.

    Anyone may ask for a public meeting any time between the date the NORI is mailed and the end of the comment period (see Second Notice above).

    See more details on this part of the process.

  • Protesting our executive director’s decision to issue the permit. Once we release our ED's decision on a permit application, which is mailed with the response-to-comment document, there are two common ways to ask the commissioners to consider your protest:

    • Request a contested case hearing. With this you are requesting that the commissioners refer the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. A SOAH hearing is conducted in a manner similar to civil trials in state district court.

      Your hearing request must be based on a timely submitted public comment. You must also include a description of how you would be adversely affected in a way not common to the general public.

      See more details on this part of the process.

    • File a Request for Reconsideration. With this you are requesting that the commissioners reconsider the ED's decision.

      See more details on this part of the process.

How can I learn when these events happen?

Search: Commissioners’ Integrated Database
Call: 800-687-4040

Go back to top of page arrow Back to top