State to fine city of Austin for fish kills, water main breaks

Shoal Creek Trail_521177

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state’s top environmental authority has proposed over $29,000 in fines against the city of Austin for two water main breaks and a sewage discharge that contaminated local creeks and killed more than 2,000 fish in August of 2015, according to a state enforcement order.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rolled four 2015 city of Austin violations into one order that it plans to discuss at a July 25 meeting.

Each of the violations occurred in August of 2015.

On Aug. 5, 2015, a water main broke along West Avenue between Fourth Street and Fifth Street discharged chlorinated water into Shoal Creek and killed approximately 1,926 fish. 

A wastewater main break on Aug. 22, 2015, near 1102 South Congress Ave. leaked sewage into a storm drain leading to East Bouldin Creek. That incident killed about 18 fish.

Another water main break on Aug. 29, 2015, near 7700 North Capitol of Texas Parkway released about 3 million gallons of chlorinated water into Bull Creek and killed roughly 200 fish.

TCEQ also hit the city with a violation for failing to notify the commission within 24 hours of the Aug. 29 incident.

“Austin Water responded and corrected the problem and minimized the environmental impact as much as possible at that time,” said Austin Water spokesperson Ginny Guerrero. 

Guerrero said Austin Water agreed to undertake a “supplemental environmental project” in lieu of paying the penalty, but it is not clear what the project will be.

Aside from environmental violations, Austin has struggled in recent years with water loss due to leaky pipes and water main breaks. A 2016 KXAN investigation found the city’s pipes leaked over 5.8 billion gallons of drinkable water, which is enough to fill Lady Bird Lake 2.4 times.

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