AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Samsung works to remediate a recent spill of wastewater into a tributary of Harris Branch Creek in northeast Austin, KXAN is learning it’s the company’s second spill at the same facility within a year.
In January of this year, it was discovered a pipe sprung a leak at the Samsung Austin Semiconductor plant off Parmer Lane, resulting in the release of up to 763,000 gallons of wastewater into the facility’s stormwater pond and subsequently the tributary.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed to KXAN on Tuesday another spill from Samsung’s northeast Austin plant occurred on May 27, 2021. It was caused “by an electrical arc from a control panel failure and power loss to water process pumps,” a TCEQ spokesperson said.
TCEQ said while the wastewater discharge was contained at the facility’s on-site stormwater pond during this spill, heavy rains over multiple days caused an estimated 64,950 gallons of wastewater and stormwater to escape into the Harris Branch Creek tributary.
“…significant rainfall accumulation caused the onsite pond to overflow into the main basin, which released some diluted neutral wastewater,” a Samsung spokesperson said in a statement to KXAN.
TCEQ investigation records show sulfuric acid and hydrofluoric acid were both found in the wastewater in the May 2021 spill. But Samsung in a statement said the small amount of wastewater that went offsite was “extremely diluted with rainwater” and had no impacts on the environment.
Once the rains died down and the City of Austin gave approval, TCEQ said Samsung’s stormwater pond was routed to the city’s Walnut Creek Treatment Plant. TCEQ records state Samsung was trying to get approval for the routing before the heavy rains arrived.
Samsung wasn’t fined for the May 2021 spill, and according to TCEQ paperwork, the company claimed the spill was caused by unforeseeable circumstances. TCEQ investigators concluded Samsung “properly managed and assessed the incident,” and no violations were found.