City of Austin takes Walgreens to court over store bathroom

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is taking Walgreens to court over one of its store bathrooms, amid complaints from neighbors about raw sewage leaking from the property.

The store is located at 5819 Burnet Road in Allandale. John Vela owns Sunset Canyon Pottery next door.

“They’ve been having a problem with the sewage not moving through the system and bubbling out through the ground,” said Vela.

The city has cited the corporate giant four times this year for sewage leaks from a pipe that connects to the store’s bathroom. Staff noted an “active discharge with a strong odor,” according to emails obtained by KXAN.

Vela said the sewage leaks periodically at the southwest corner of Walgreens’ property, with Vela’s business directly downhill. His big concern is runoff when it rains.

He said, “As the smell comes though and the sewage comes through, I’m concerned for my employees, myself and for adjacent businesses.”

That includes a nearby school.

Austin’s Watershed Protection Department noted Walgreens has attempted to fix the problem, but solutions have been short lived.

“Initially, Walgreens had their lift station and grinder pump area pumped out and addressed the functionality of the electrical system to ensure the pumps were working properly,” a department spokesperson said. “The initial repairs performed by the contractor did not appear to permanently resolve the problem.”

Watershed Protection estimates 50 gallons of sewage have leaked from the property to this point. The city is now filing a second Class C misdemeanor charge against Walgreens in Austin Municipal Court. Each charge carries a fine up to $2,000.

Walgreens store management referred us to its corporate office.

“We decline a comment on pending litigation,” said a company spokesperson in an email to KXAN.

Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool represents District 7, where the store is located.

“It’s unfortunate that problems remain at this Walgreens property after such long engagement with our City environmental inspectors; they’ve been seeking compliance for a long time on this,” she said in a statement. “I’m particularly grateful to our residents like John Vela, who spot pollution problems and report them.”

From here, the city says Walgreens will be summoned to court and enter a plea. If it pleads guilty or doesn’t enter a plea, the court will identify fines, costs and fees. If the company enters a plea of not guilty, the case will be set for trial by a judge or jury.

There is no set date for Walgreens to appear in court at this time.

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