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Aquifer district looking for spill answers

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 by Austin Monitor

Dr. Brian Smith, the Aquifer Science Team Leader with the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, told In Fact Daily Monday that his organization was still in the preliminary stages of reviewing the incident that resulted in 250,000 gallons of raw sewage spilling out of a sewer line near the intersection of LaCrosse Drive and MoPac Boulevard in far South Austin.


City officials said vandals opened the manhole and dropped debris and a large rock into the sewer line, blocking the line and causing the spill. The exact time of the event is not known but crews began working on the problem around noon on Sunday. They indicated that they had finished cleaning up the spill in the Circle C subdivision last night.


Barton Springs Pool closed at 5pm Sunday and will remain so for an undetermined period of time.


Smith noted that the spill happened “right in the middle of the recharge zone” and that the conservation district would “like to know how much of that has escaped…into the ground.”


From there, the wastewater could seep into wells used for drinking water. According to Smith, the conservation district will work with city officials to determine which wells will need to be tested for contamination. He expects these tests to happen sometime before mid-day today.


Smith added that, as far as he knew, only private wells are in the path of the spill. Local officials advised area residents who get their water from private wells to boil water because of concerns over bacteria in the water.


Nancy McClintock, assistant director of Watershed Protection, said, “We worry about Barton Springs,” because any recharge that happens in Slaughter Creek—where the sewage spilled—goes downstream to the springs. She noted that crews were cleaning out pools within the creek. Too much sewage can cause an oxygen deficit, making life more difficult for the endangered Barton Springs salamander.

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