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Travis will ask TCEQ to help with Hamilton Pool clean-up

Friday, October 15, 2010 by Michael Kanin

Travis County will ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to help pitch in for the ongoing clean-up of Hamilton Pool. County commissioners hope that the state agency will cover a roughly $330,000 gap between the amount of a settlement that relates to those efforts and the actual cost of the work.

 

That news came as the Commissioners Court heard an update from representatives of Espey Consultants on the progress that their firm has made in and around the popular swimming spot. Espey was hired to head an extensive operation after the $3.5 million settlement with Coldwater Development and Rodman Excavation—who had been accused of allowing sediment to leach off of their site and into Hamilton Creek–was completed.

 

Joe Gieselman, the Executive Manager of the county’s Transportation and Natural Resources department, told the court that Espey had nearly completed the first phase of the clean-up and that the second would get underway shortly. Work began on July 6. It is expected to conclude early next year.

 

Project Manager Victoria Harkins detailed the sort of effort her firm had initiated. “In every corner of the creek, (there’s) been a different technique that we’ve had to develop,” she said. “(In one) section, we…use(d) small equipment and wash(ed) and hydro-pressured behind it.”

 

She noted that the developers had used at least some portion of the creek as a “haul road” and that, in some areas, her team had found run-off that had accumulated to between six and eight feet. Precinct 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt asked Harkins if the damage was worse than had been expected.

 

“Absolutely,” she responded. “Where there were sections that I really thought that the creek was probably solid all the way across would turn out to be a three, four foot hole filled with silt and it’s hardened.

 

“I’ve used the simile a number of times: It’s like an ice cream cone dipped in chocolate from Dairy Queen….It’s hardened on the bottom but as soon as you crack through, it just poops,” she said.   

 

Harkins initially estimated that the work would cost roughly $2.3 million. Travis’ portion of the settlement amounted to $2.1 million. The remainder  was split between Hays County, the state Commission, and three property owners.

 

The full cost of the clean-up, which includes portions of Hamilton Creek in addition to the pool will clock in at around $2.4 million. Should the state not come through with funding, the County is prepared to reimburse itself from its risk fund.

 

Gieselman told In Fact Daily that he felt that the request is a reasonable one. “We know that they’ve probably already committed the money that they got out of the settlement,” he said. “But they have this pool of money that they get from environmental settlements so our intent is to ask them to look for other money to help supplement what we’re doing.

 

“I think it’s a fair request, in large part because of the county’s involvement with the litigation–that we got such a large settlement, which they participated in the benefits of,” he continued. “My sense is that…had they known that we were going to be short, they probably would have (contributed).”

 

Gieselman, however, stressed that he didn’t know that for sure.

 

A Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesperson told In Fact Daily that they had not yet received the county’s request. When they do, she said that they would consider it.

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