Food Grease Spill in Shoal Creek Investigated

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After the receiving the following report of pollution in Shoal Creek, the Conservancy would like to remind our fellow Austinites to help protect Austin’s water quality by reporting any pollution discharges spotted in any creeks and lakes in the Austin area. Pollution reports should be made to the City’s 24-hour Pollution Hotline at 512-974-2550 as soon as possible. The Pollution Prevention and Reduction (PPR) staff from the Watershed Protection Department are on call 24/7 to investigate the pollution site and prevent further threats to water quality and surrounding wildlife.

On the morning of December 12, a citizen called the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department (WPD) Pollution Hotline reporting a cooking oil spill in Shoal Creek. The spill had impacted a large bird and dog. Within the hour, the WPD Pollution Prevention and Reduction (PPR) staff arrived at Shoal Creek and West 24th Street to investigate the spill. Walking 100 meters north along Shoal Creek, staff noted an estimated 10 gallons of what appeared to be food grease floating on the surface for roughly 10 meters (see attached photo). The spill was about 200 yards north of the 24th Street bridge. The grease was partially contained behind a rock dam. PPR staff walked 800 meters north along Shoal Creek and inspected storm sewer outfalls to identify a point source discharge. PPR staff inspected the storm sewer infrastructures on Gaston Avenue, Pemberton Parkway, and North Lamar Boulevard. The source of the discharge was not located at the time of the investigation. However, PPR staff are still investigating possible leads and would welcome calls from citizens who may have additional information.

Thankfully, fish, birds, and insects in the area were observed and active. There was no apparent impact to aquatic life. The grease was floating on the top and the water below was clear in appearance. In response, the PPR staff deployed sorbent boom at the small rock dam to prevent the grease from traveling further downstream. They also deployed 40 floating sorbent pads to soak up the grease. PPR staff retrieved all grease soaked pads for proper disposal. The floating boom was left in place. PPR staff will continue to monitor the spill area, as roughly 1 quart of grease was not able to be recovered. PPR staff will follow-up with the complainant regarding our findings and actions taken.

The Conservancy would also like to thank the team at PPR and the entire Watershed Protection Department for responding efficiently and effectively to this and other reports of pollution that threaten our water quality. Thank you, PPR and the City of Austin, for your tireless efforts to protect our watershed.

Pollution Report Information Source: Sharon R. Cooper, R.S. Environmental/Conservation Program Manager City of Austin- Watershed Protection Department

Photo of 12/12 food spill. Photo credit: Shoal Creek Conservancy volunteer

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