Lake Residents Worried About Megachurch's New Campsite - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/16/07-Lake Hawkins

Lake Residents Worried About Megachurch's New Campsite

It's considered one of the largest churches in the nation. Fellowship Church based out of Grapevine is building a lake-side retreat right here in East Texas. The 1,000 acre camp site is being built on Lake Hawkins, just northwest of Hawkins in Wood County. It's expected to be a state of the art facility, but not everyone is happy with the plans to make it happen.

Lake Hawkins is said to be one of the best kept secrets in East Texas with it's pristine water and white sandy beaches, but some nearby residents are afraid it won't stay that way for long.

"You raise your kids on it, you raise your grandkids on it, so you'd hate to see potential disaster with it," said lake resident Carol Blencoe.

A potential disaster they said because of what Fellowship Church is planning to do with the treated wastewater from the campsite: Dump an average of 40,000 gallons of it into Lake Hawkins every day.

"We're quite frankly concerned that this is going to turn into a septic dump," said lake resident Sue Tumbleson.

The church is building an entire camp site in the woods, complete with a 20,000 square foot facility and 10 individual cabins. Nearby residents said they welcome the church and its facilities, but they want an alternative for disposing its wastewater.

And nearly 500 other people agree, signing letters to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who told us it's not uncommon for treated wastewater to be dumped into lakes.

"It's my understanding that they are building a lake of their own on this 1000-acre camp, and we're wondering why they aren't putting the treated wastewater into their lake?" asked Tumbleson.

"I think anytime you develop something, you've got to look at every alternative and make an educated decision," said Troy Page, communications director with Fellowship Church.

The church ssaid they want to do the right thing and will put the citizen's concerns into consideration. But for now, they're leaving it up to the professionals and TCEQ to tell them what is right.

"The right way is not to put it in to the lake. If you can, they could put it directly into the Sabine and that's their objective is getting it to the Sabine to begin with," Blencoe said.

It's not much comfort right now for these citizens until they see results, until they know treated wastewater isn't being flushed into their pristine lake.

The TCEQ said a public meeting to address citizen concerns will most likely be held at the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, construction on the church's campsite is expected to be finished by next summer.

Tracy Watler/Reporting:

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