Tons of trash is removed from Lady Bird Lake each year, and even more when it rains

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Austin gets a lot of rain, Lady Bird Lake gets dirty quickly.

While all the rain this summer was great for plant life, it brought extra trash with it.

Lucas Shapiro and Erica Payne walk the trail around the lake often.

“It is one of the reasons why we wanted to be in this area,” Payne said.

However this summer they noticed more trash in the lake and on the banks.

“Styrofoam cups and plastic, it is kind of everywhere,” Shapiro said.

May 2021 was one of the wettest months on record for Austin. The area got about seven inches of rain, and with 3.6 inches in June, plus another four inches in July and more than three inches in August, a lot of trash was washed into the lake, a city official said

“Trash in the lake is really responsive to the rainfall in the city,” said John Beachy, the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department division manager. “If you think of what drains into Lady Bird Lake, it is the area of Mopac to 183 to 35, then all the way to 71.”

Beachy oversees a crew of six people who are tasked with the cleanup.

“You mobilize on a boat, and usually you are getting stuff with a picker because stuff is in amongst the logs,” Beachy said.

So how much trash are we talking each year?

  • 2018: 16.7 tons
  • 2019: 11.8 tons
  • 2020: 4.24 tons
  • 2021: 7.4 tons

These numbers are down because crews weren’t picking up at the start of the pandemic.

The city also performs testing for harmful algae. Watershed Protection conducts routine testing of Lady Bird Lake nine times a year. This testing includes water temperature, clarity, nutrient levels. The city says Lady Bird Lake meets State of Texas contact recreation standards for E. coli.

Swimming was banned in Lady Bird Lake in the 1960s after several people drowned.

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