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Creek near Northeast Samsung plant hit with millions more gallons of waste spilled from facility

Samsung and TXEQ reported the spills to the city last week. (City of Austin)

Just weeks after the city reported sulfuric acid waste spilling from Austin's Samsung plant into a nearby creek, the tech giant that is in the process of a Central Texas expansion has reported millions more gallons of spillage.

More than 2 million gallons of stormwater mixed with wastewater spilled from Austin Samsung Semiconductor into a tributary north of the facility in late January.

The spill was followed by another just days later, with 5.9 million gallons that contained sulfates exceeding regulatory limits set in city code. Within the downstream segment, that spill remained below the state’s surface water quality limits.

According to a city memo from the environmental officer at the Watershed Protection Department, Samsung said the releases were necessary “to avoid catastrophic impacts to the structural integrity of the stormwater pond berm.”

Samsung and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality contacted the City of Austin to report the spills last week. On Sunday, the Watershed Protection Department visited the north tributary and found no environmental impacts in an assessment that involved collecting data and biological observations.

The city report released Thursday explains that the stormwater outfalls followed two rain events that took place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.

The downpour hit the facility with seven inches of rain and a pond containing industrial wastewater filled up with an estimated 13 million gallons of stormwater. As designed for stormwater treatment, this inflow caused the pond to overflow to a second pond area on Samsung’s property.

This latest stormwater outfall stemmed from the same leak in which 763,000 gallons of sulfuric acid waste reached the stormwater pond at Samsung’s facility where uncontained portions then spilled into a tributary of Harris Branch Creek.

The fallout of that spill had a significant short-term impact on the ecology of the tributary and the Watershed Protection Department had found dead aquatic remains when visiting the site. Waste mixed with stormwater had spilled into that same stream in May 2021. Samsung did not face fines for that spill and the company told the Austin American-Statesman that it had “zero environmental impact.”

The drainage path of the latest spills has a different path. Discharges to the receiving tributary traveled about a mile before reaching the main stem of Harris Branch Creek.

The tributary passes construction for multi-family residential and commercial developments. Outside of rain events, the tributary usually holds intermittent pools and does not flow, the city memo says.

The stormwater and wastewater has been contained since Feb. 3. and is being pumped into the sanitary sewer for proper disposal with approval from Austin Water.

Samsung anticipates that all the water will be transferred Friday.


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