Austin gets a warning system for dog-killing algae, but no signs of deadly blooms in Lady Bird Lake so far
Even on a sweltering summer afternoon, a few dozen people still made it out to Red Bud Isle on Lady Bird Lake Tuesday to escape their homes and walk their dogs. But the place—an idyllic 13-acre dog park hidden away in West Austin—has a dark chapter in its recent history.
Exactly one year ago, a dog died after swimming near a mat of what would later turn out to be a toxic algae bloom. Over the course of the next weeks, the neurotoxin-containing species killed several more dogs before the city banned pets from the water.
The ban lasted until November, when the tests run by the city finally showed that the algae bloom had dissipated.
Now, the city, with help from University of Texas molecular biosciences professor Schonna Manning, runs regular tests of water samples from all along the lake in hopes of catching the next bloom as soon as it becomes a problem.
Developing a warning system
By sheer luck, Manning had an existing contract in place with the city of Austin last summer to study algae in Lady Bird Lake, allowing them to draw a connection between the dogs' deaths and the algae bloom quickly.
The teams has created a swift warning system, with a 1-2 day turnaround, so that as soon as toxic algae appears, the city can begin putting up signs warning the public of dangerous areas and ban pets from the water, if necessary.
"We have kind of a gauged warning system from green to red, depending on the appearance of the lake, as well as what we've found both genetically and biochemically," Manning said.
For now, at least, Manning said her team has not noticed anything in Lady Bird Lake to cause alarm. But that can change in as little as a few days.
Visiting the lake
The first major samples of the summer were taken last week and are still being analyzed.
Jonie Mulder, a writer who lives in Tarrytown, brought her dog CJ out to Red Bud Isle Tuesday. She said it was one of the first times in more than a year that she had visited. When reports came out last year about dogs dying after swimming around Red Bud Isle, Mulder said she immediately stopped going, saying it wasn't worth the risk.
Now, however, Mulder said she just hopes her dog stays away from algae mats when she swims, but that there isn't any signage around the isle to warn of any potential danger.
"As soon as they said like it was killing dogs," Mulder said she stopped going. But Mulder said CJ is "squeamish as it is" and would have avoided sludge or large algae flats, anyway.
No signs of harmful algae yet this year
Stephanie Lott, a spokeswoman for the Austin Watershed Protection Department, which works with Manning on studying the algae, told Austonia that, "When we went out last week, we did not see any suspicious looking algae to send to the UT lab."
Regardless of definitive tests on the presence of toxic algae, Manning said the most important thing for anyone letting their dog swim in any body of water, not just Lady Bird Lake, is to trust their eyes and nose.
"If you look at the water and it looks kind of scuzzy, and there is stuff floating on top, that's definitely a warning that, possibly, it's not going to be a healthy place to go in," Manning said. "So trust your eyes and trust your nose. I mean, if it smells bad, if it looks bad, it's likely bad."
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Whether you’re making the switch out of a gas-powered car or thinking of adding another EV into the mix, tax credits could go away for your desired car.
The climate-health-tax package could become law soon. And while Democrats had aimed to expand consumer tax credits for battery-powered vehicles Sen. Joe Manchin called for some supply chain requirements in order to go along with the broader bill.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation estimates that’ll cut vehicles eligible for the credits from 72 to 25. Brands eligible for a tax credit include BMW, Ford and Rivian. As Electrek reports, sales can push manufacturers over the predetermined threshold of qualified sales, and Tesla is part of that group.
For some EV owners, however, this incentive wasn’t an influence on their decision anyway.
Anuarbek Imanbaev, VP of the Tesla Owners Club Austin, said the credit played very little role in his decision to get a Tesla.
He views his first Tesla as a more luxurious type of purchase that’s a different approach than what other car shoppers have.
“That's a different segment,” Imanbaev said. “I think in that segment, it was nice to have, but it wasn't anything that affected whether I would buy the vehicle or not.”
Still, Imanbaev thinks for those shopping for vehicles up to about $65,000, the tax credit could increase demand.
Reginald Collins, a sales professional at Onion Creek Volkswagen, has talked to the clients who weigh cost more when buying a vehicle and he said the tax credit is a “huge deal.”
“On top of the fact that you're not paying for any gas. And you're saving Earth, it's not a combustion vehicle,” Collins said, referring to Volkswagen’s ID.4 that people can buy with a $7,500 tax credit.
What’s its appeal over a Tesla or other electric vehicles?
“Just the flexibility of it, it's much less expensive,” Collins said.
And while EVs require some wait—Collins estimates the ID.4 taking about 8 to 10 months— he also said that the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee is making for faster production.
“If you need parts, you can order them from the states instead of ordering them in Germany,” Collins said. “So if you have customer issues they can get parts quicker.”
So if you’re trying to get a deal on an EV, you may need to act quickly. The Senate sent the plan, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, to the House earlier this week meaning it could be headed to President Biden’s desk soon.
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A chain of plant-based restaurants and wellness centers is getting its start in Austin.
Following time in executive-level positions with Austin-started Whole Foods Market, Betsy Foster, former senior vice president, retiring co-founder and CEO John Mackey and former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb are onto their next project: a startup called Healthy America LLC.
The venture raised $31 million from investors earlier this year to create a national network of wellness centers and vegetarian restaurants.
Bloomberg reported on a now-closed job posting for Healthy America, which described it as “an evidence-based lifestyle company, leading the convergence of culinary, healthcare, and wellness.”
The posting mentions an aim to “meaningfully transform the health and wellbeing of individuals.” Aside from food, educational, fitness and spa services may also be offered.Incorporated in 2020, Healthy America seems to be at an office near 38th Street and Lamar Boulevard, the Austin Business Journal reports.
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