Does this come as a surprise? Galveston waters are the same way. Not to
mention, that the pollution coming out of Galveston is killing off marine
life in the Gulf of Mexico. Barbaric!
: Austin residents: Get ready to pay more in taxes for a BIG lawsuit
: over this... Not to mention clean-up costs. Meanwhile, tell your
: friends not to come near the poison hole.
: Toxic chemicals taint Barton waters
: Pool, other city creeks may pose health risk; decades-old fuel waste
: cited as possible source
: By Kevin Carmody
: and Mike Ward
: AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
: Sunday, January 19, 2003
: Levels of toxic chemicals in Barton Springs Pool and just upstream on
: a hillside overlooking the pool have exceeded those found in a dozen
: of the worst hazardous waste sites in the country, an Austin
: American-Statesman investigation has found.
: At points along three other Austin bodies of water - East Bouldin
: Creek, Waller Creek and the Central Market ponds at Lamar Boulevard
: and West 45th Street - levels of chemicals that increase the risk of
: cancer after prolonged exposure also have exceeded those found at
: toxic waste sites that federal authorities have declared public health
: hazards or Superfund sites.
: Scientists who reviewed test results documenting the contamination say
: the data suggest that the pollution found in the pool and along the
: hillside is from hazardous waste dumped nearby. The most likely
: culprit, they say, is waste from coal gasification plants that
: produced fuel for city lighting from the 1870s to 1928.
: Two toxicologists said the elevated levels of the neurotoxic metal
: arsenic and seven benzene-based compounds found in sediments at Barton
: Springs warrant temporarily closing Austin's environmental treasure,
: the spring-fed pool whose iconic value has driven more than a decade
: of anti-development campaigning and reshaped city politics. They
: recommend closing the pool until questions about public safety are
: resolved. The pool attracts an average of about 1,000 paid visitors a
: Scientists also recommend that warning signs be posted to alert
: swimmers and fishermen to risks and that site assessments be done at
: the worst areas to document the extent and source of the
: Though the city found the chemicals in the springs area as early as
: 1994, its focus in its testing program was on the endangered Barton
: Springs salamander and not on human health, city officials
: The newspaper's findings go beyond its report in August, which showed
: that the presence of one benzene-based chemical, benzo(a)pyrene,
: sometimes exceeded state safety guidelines at the pool and on the
: hillside. Atop that hillside sit the Barton Springs Park Place
: apartments, at 1200 Barton Hills Drive in the Barton Hills
: City officials said then that the carcinogen was not detected often
: enough to close the pool or pose any health concern for people.
: The city maintained its position until Jan. 10, when nine city
: officials and their consultants met with editors and reporters of the
: American-Statesman. Because of the seriousness of the findings, the
: newspaper wanted to give the city a briefing and another opportunity
: for response before publication.
: After the Jan. 10 meeting, City Manager Toby Futrell ordered her staff
: to take samples of sediment in the pool and Barton Creek on Jan. 11.
: On Tuesday, the top public health authority in Austin and Travis
: County said that he and city officials now realize the hillside may
: pose a risk and needs a full assessment but that they don't have
: enough information about the level of exposure in the pool to know
: whether it poses a risk to swimmers.
: "I think we all agree that we have a problem on the hillside," Dr. Ed
: Sherwood said. "I don't think there's any question about that."
: City officials said they think seal coat treatments on streets and
: parking lots are the cause of the hillside contamination.
: The newspaper's new findings suggest that swimmers in the pool and
: Barton Creek have been exposed not just to one contaminant but to a
: toxic stew of tainted sediment at least periodically for seven years,
: probably longer. The findings detail problems with arsenic and
: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a family of more than 100 chemicals
: known as PAHs.
: Seven of those benzene-based chemicals - one of them benzo(a)pyrene -
: are the most dangerous of the PAH family, federal health officials
: say. The newspaper's findings are based on city tests of sediment and
: soil from 1991 to 2002 and a review of 11,000 pages of city documents
: obtained under the Texas open records law.
: All six experts who provided a detailed assessment of the test results
: said the extraordinarily high levels and the number of contaminants
: found upstream in Barton Creek and on the hillside, including
: neurotoxins such as mercury and the pesticide heptachlor, indicate
: there may be previously unknown hazardous waste sites nearby.
: It is possible, the newspaper's experts said, that the pollution came
: from coal gasification plants whose wastes might have been dumped on
: the ground or in an old gravel pit that was filled in before the
: Barton Hills neighborhood developed.
: An e-mail obtained from the city under the Texas open records law
: shows that the serious nature of the contamination at the pool, creek
: and hillside had independent confirmation in early 2002 by scientists
: with the U.S. Geological Survey, the federal government's sciences
: research arm. A federal scientist reported to city officials that she
: was shocked by the "astronomical" levels of benzene compounds recorded
: in USGS tests.
: Pete Van Metre, another USGS scientist who advises the city on water
: quality issues, told the newspaper he cautioned city staff that the
: levels upstream, particularly on the hillside creek bed, were higher
: than his agency had ever detected anywhere in the country in routine
: surveys of waterways. Those levels would be expected "at a
: contaminated industrial site," Van Metre said he told them in May
: The newspaper also found elevated levels of the benzene compounds. In
: December, sediment from shallow areas along the northwest side of the
: pool was collected by two reporters and sent to a state-certified lab
: in Round Rock, DHL Analytical Inc., for analysis. The tests showed
: levels of benzene compounds higher than the U.S. Environmental
: Protection Agency has deemed safe for regular human contact.
: Assessing the risks
: The hillside contains a tree-lined dry creek bed as deep as 6 feet in
: some places with its upper portions strewn with rock, concrete and
: chunks of asphalt. When rain falls, the water flows to Barton Creek
: The hillside has repeatedly recorded the seven benzene compounds above
: the minimum level of 1,000 parts per billion that can make a
: residential or recreational area eligible for the federal Superfund
: list of the nation's most dangerous toxic sites needing cleanup. In
: one test, the compounds were found at 355 times that minimum.
: The seven benzene compounds are listed by federal and international
: health agencies as either probable or possible human carcinogens.
: Arsenic is considered a known human carcinogen.
: The EPA assumes that a safe level of the seven benzene compounds in
: the soil or sediment is 90 ppb or below. In the pool, the peak levels
: have been up to nearly 100 times higher, and nearly nine times the
: minimum that can qualify a site in a recreational or residential
: setting for a federal Superfund cleanup.
: Scientists think the other locations with elevated levels of the
: benzene compounds - East Bouldin Creek, Waller Creek and the Central
: Market ponds - could have become contaminated by a variety of sources,
: including coal gas waste and leaking underground petroleum storage
: In four other areas, along Shoal, Blunn and Harper's Branch creeks and
: Taylor Slough, the city's tests have recorded contaminant levels that
: exceed some state or federal safety guidelines. However, according to
: the EPA, the levels of chemicals and apparently low frequency of human
: exposure at most of those sites might not be great enough for action
: under the federal Superfund law.
: Around the country, about 600 sites contaminated with the benzene
: compounds have qualified for Superfund cleanups. Documents and
: interviews with EPA Superfund staff identified a dozen sites where the
: benzene compounds were among the primary pollution concerns and were
: found at levels comparable to or lower than some of the Austin sites.
: In New Hampshire, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
: Registry, a branch of the federal Centers for Disease Control and
: Prevention, declared a public health hazard and banned swimming in the
: Winnipesaukee River near the former Messer Street Manufactured Gas
: Plant. Contamination of shallow sediment in the river in comparable
: samples had peak levels lower than the peak found in Barton Springs
: In suburban Houston, Patrick Bayou joined the Superfund priority list
: on Sept. 5. It also had peak readings of the benzene compounds at
: lower levels than the peak detected in the pool and at about half the
: level the City of Austin detected in November 2000.
: Near Conroe, the United Creosote site made the list with levels of
: soil contamination significantly lower in comparable samples than what
: has been recorded on the Barton Creek hillside.
: The city knew about the high levels of the benzene compounds in the
: pool as early as 1995. City officials had mentioned the chemicals in
: several reports to the City Council and other government agencies. The
: reports were available but not widely
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