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Sulfuric acid waste spills from Northeast Samsung plant into nearby creek

A red outline shows the Samsung stormwater pond and affected waterway. (City of Austin)

Up to 763,000 gallons of sulfuric acid waste reached the stormwater pond at Austin’s Samsung facility and uncontained portions spilled into a tributary of Harris Branch Creek in Northeast Austin.

It’s unknown how much waste entered the tributary, but it had a “significant short-term impact on the aquatic community and the ecology of the tributary,” a City of Austin memo stated. The Watershed Protection Department found dead aquatic remains and virtually no surviving aquatic life, including fish, when staff visited the surrounding area.

The spill happened at the semiconductor facility at 12100 Samsung Boulevard. The nearby creek starts near Parmer and Yager Lanes and flows into Gilleland Creek, east of SH 130. Sulfuric acid, one of the most commercially important chemicals, has been described as dense and corrosive.

After Samsung notified TCEQ and the National Response Center on Jan. 14, it found sections of the tributary had a pH between 3 and 4, “far below normal for surface water,” the city memo notes.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality notified the city’s Watershed Protection Department on Jan. 18. TCEQ, which is overseeing the investigation, cleanup and enforcement of the spill, says it could have happened over a period of 106 days.

Last week, spill investigators and scientists looked at the area and saw iron staining in the tributary channel consistent with a low pH environment stretching over about 1.5 miles. Long-term impacts haven’t been determined yet, WPD said.

The department is receiving daily updates from Samsung on the remediation process and will inspect the stormwater pond before it’s put back in service. Staff will also carry out weekly surveys of the affected tributary to monitor water quality parameters like pH until remediation is finished.

Michele Glaze, head of communications and community affairs at Samsung Austin Semiconductor said it is cooperating with the agencies and has retained a leading environmental engineering company as a partner.

Glaze said Samsung is "committed to environmental stewardship and recognizes our role in preserving the natural beauty of Central Texas."

A review on Jan. 18 found the pH had returned to near-normal levels within the tributary. No major impacts seem to have reached wildlife or affected water chemistry in the main branch of the creek.


1923 Lake Austin mansion demolition request pitting preservationists and some neighbors against owner and city preservation office
Austin Monitor

By Jonathan Lee

The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.

The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'

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Freaky Floats and other Austin food & drink news
Austin Motel

What's new in Austin food & drink this week:

  • Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
  • Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
  • Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
  • Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
  • Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
  • Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
  • The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
  • Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
  • P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.