Monday, March 9, 2015 by Sunny Sone

Riverboat contract has a sewage problem

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and City Council Member Leslie Pool raised concerns last week about Lone Star Riverboat’s practices at the regular Council meeting Thursday, postponing the vote on a revenue contract until March 26. A memo to Council regarding the contract outlined sewage and marine toilet compliance issues and questioned whether Lone Star’s dock could withstand the next five to 10 years.

The company improperly documented liquid waste disposal in 2014, providing one written trip ticket for waste for the entire year. It did submit several invoices as well, but the city does not classify invoices as acceptable records. Lake Austin Task Force member Carol Lee, who was appointed to the panel by Tovo, analyzed manifest information.

In an email to the Austin Water Utility, Lee wrote that with more than $500,000 in gross revenue for 2014, the 200 gallons of waste recorded on Lone Star’s single manifest “just doesn’t seem like an accurate accounting of waste from that boat’s holding tank.” Her correspondence with the water utility led to the discovery of the company’s noncompliant record-keeping.

The city requires waste generators and transporters to track liquid waste from excursion boats on Lady Bird Lake to trucks onshore with manifests or trip tickets. This is necessary because there is no sewage pump-out facility on the lake.

Of Lone Star’s three-boat platoon, two are not in compliance with marine toilet regulations. The city requires any excursion boat carrying more than 20 passengers to have separate toilets for men and women. “The Little Star” can carry 34 passengers and “The Southern Star” a maximum of 60, but neither have any toilets.

The memo also questions Lone Star’s proposed addition of 30 seats, noting the additional seats are ambiguous in code compliance — it’s unclear whether those seats would add to or replace seats on noncompliant boats. The memo encourages Council to consider requiring the company to install a boat sewage pump-out station before expanding services.

The contract would not require Lone Star to expand or replace its current dock. Instead, the company would improve accessibility and compliance with the American Disabilities Act in nearby parkland.

The Parks and Recreation Board and the Environmental Board co-signed the contract, even though the waste disposal issue was raised during an Environmental Board meeting in February. If approved, the contract is anticipated to bring in $150,000 in revenue over five years, with a possible 60-month extension.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Environmental Commission: An advisory board to members of the Austin City Council. Its purview includes "all projects and programs which affect the quality of life for the citizens of Austin." In many cases, this includes development projects.

Lake Austin Task Force: The Lake Austin Task Force, now disbanded, recommends regulations and enforcement of regulations to promote, preserve and protect Lake Austin. The group was dissolved after the completion of their Lake Austin Task Force recommendations, which were presented to City Council.

Parks and Recreation Board: The city’s Parks and Recreation Board members deal with the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of Austin’s parks and playgrounds.

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