Creek pol­lu­tion in­ci­dent is univer­sity’s third in six months.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ralph K.M. Hau­r­witz rhau­r­witz@states­man.com

The dis­cov­ery that chlo­ri­nated wa­ter is leak­ing into Waller Creek has prompted the Univer­sity of Texas to close the main race pool at its Ja­mail Texas Swim­ming Cen­ter, of­fi­cials an­nounced Thurs­day.

The pool was closed late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­pairs. Of­fi­cials said they could of­fer no time­line for com­ple­tion of the work. A swim meet known as the Amer­i­can Short Course Cham­pi­onship, which was sched­uled for Thurs­day through Satur­day this week, has been re­lo­cated to the Northside school dis­trict’s nata­to­rium in San An­to­nio.

This is the univer­sity’s third re­ported pol­lu­tion in­cid e nt in­volv­ing Waller Creek in the past six months. In Septem­ber, UT re­ported that raw sewage flowed for nearly two years into the creek from an engi­neer­ing build­ing as a re­sult of a plumb­ing con­trac­tor’s er­ror. And sewage leak de­scribed as “minor” from a res­i­dence hall into the creek was re­ported to state au­thor­i­ties in Fe­bru­ary.

“Waller Creek is a prom­i­nent and highly val­ued fea­ture of the univer­sity’s cam­pus,” said John Sals­man, di­rec­tor of UT’s En­v­i­ron- men­tal Health and Safety De­part­ment. “These re­cent in­ci­dents are not ac­cept­able and do not re­flect the univer­sity’s com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing this nat­u­ral re­source. We will be look­ing for any com­mon, root causes dur­ing this re­view and re­dou­bling our ef­forts to safe­guard the creek.”

Tests are be­ing run to pin­point the source of the leak in the 50-me­ter race pool, Sals­man said. The swim cen­ter’s dive pool ap­pears to be func­tion­ing prop­erly, he said.

Of­fi­cials are dechlo­ri­nat­ing the wa­ter in the race pool, and they are work­ing to de­ter­mine how much pool wa­ter was pumped through the city of Austin’s san­i­ta­tion sys­tem and how much

leaked into Waller Creek.

In­spec­tion at an out­fall pipe in Waller Creek near the Trin­ity Park­ing Garage re­vealed a chlo­rine odor, chlo­rine in creek wa­ter and bleach­ing of soil, ac­cord­ing to a univer­sity news re­lease. No dead fish or fish in dis­tress were ob­served.

The leak un­der­scores some of the chal­lenges faced by UT, the city of Austin and a non­profit group as they work to re­vi­tal­ize an in­creas­ingly important ur­ban wa­ter­way. Clean­ing up Waller Creek enough to meet fed­eral stan­dards for so-called con­tact re­cre­ation is gain­ing ur­gency as a re­sult of mas­sive pub­lic and pri­vate spend­ing un­der­way or planned to con­trol flooding, ex­pand park­land and re­de­velop ad­ja­cent ar­eas.

Be­cause of chron­i­cally el­e­vated lev­els of fe­cal bac­te­ria, the wa­ter poses a po­ten­tial health risk to peo­ple who might swal­low some of it while swim­ming or wad­ing in the creek, ac­cord­ing to environmental au­thor­i­ties.


In Septem­ber, UT re­ported that raw sewage flowed for nearly two years into Waller Creek from an engi­neer­ing build­ing. A “minor” sewage leak from a res­i­dence hall was re­ported in Fe­bru­ary.

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