Monday, October 7, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Read all about it

Planting the seeds… Just because water is crystal clear doesn’t mean it is clean. Craig Nazor, a citizen who sits on the Animal Advisory Commission, alerted the Environmental Commission on Oct. 2 that the discharge from the Walnut Creek Water Treatment Plant may potentially be harmful to park visitors. The plant, he explained, has a TCEQ permit to send 1 million gallons of treated sewage a day into the waterways going through the proposed parkland in the Pioneer Crossing PUD, but the treated water may not be as clean as it looks. “Its E. coli levels were higher than its permit,” he explained, after pulling records from 2017. He presented a frame-by-frame journey along the waterways from the treatment plant down to the planned unit development, saying that the water smelled strongly of chlorine and there was no wildlife in sight. “If it smells so badly (of chlorine) then there needs to be something done about that,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Neely. “You need to do something to improve that.” Commissioner Kevin Ramberg suggested that the problem may not be isolated to one water treatment plant and that the Watershed Protection Department should “maybe look at that citywide.” Environmental Officer Chris Herrington said that the department already uses environmental index monitoring to keep an eye on water treatment plants, but that the water treatment plants in the area “have a long history of non-compliance issues.” Although the discussion was not germane to the case at hand, he suggested that the topic come back before the body as its own item at a future meeting.

Update:In a clarification from City staff, Nazor was speaking about one of the satellite water treatment plants along Harris Branch, where flows discharge nearby the Pioneer Crossing PUD. Environmental Officer Chris Herrington clarified to the Monitor that he was referring to routine monitoring along nearby Harris Branch, which has recorded violations in e.Coli over the years.

That’s one way to celebrate… At City Council’s Thursday meeting, the city took a moment to acknowledge National Archives Month and got a history lesson from Anna Reznik with the Archivists of Central Texas in the process. She explained, “Each October, archivists across the nation celebrate Archives Month and promote the ways archives ensure citizens have access to our past and can help shape the documentation of how people look at today. It is fitting that Austin does the same, as we are the site of the 1842 Texas archives war. For those of you who do not know, there was a battle over government records and Austinites found out President Houston was going to take the archives and put it back to Houston. Angelina Eberly, (who is) depicted at a statue at Sixth and Congress, shot the cannon, scared them off, and the government archives stayed in Austin. So Austin is not a ghost town, it is a thriving government city.”

LDC and me… As we all know, the latest draft revision of the Land Development Code dropped on Friday. The city has updated its website as a result, providing info on meetings, timelines, the code itself, history – everything one would need to become an expert on the topic. There is even a website about the revision as a result. The page also offers a new option: one-on-one, 30-minute meetings with staff. Those appointments, available during designated “office hours,” can be made here.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jessi Devenyns and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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.

City of Austin Land Development Code: The city's Land Development Code regulates building and development in the city of Austin. As part of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, the code is currently undergoing a rewrite in what is called the "CodeNEXT." That process is expected to be completed in 2016.

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