Gallons of Pollutants Removed from the Environment as a Result of Pollution Investigation and Industrial and High Risk Facility Inspections
This measure captures the gallons of pollutants that have been prevented from entering the City’s waterways. Staff responds on a 24-hour basis to citizen pollution complaints and emergency spills that can result in the release of hazardous or harmful materials into the environment. Staff also inspects industrial and high-risk operations to identify and mitigate illegal discharges.
The calculation for this measure is based on staff’s determination of the actual number of gallons of pollutants that have been recovered during investigations, inspections, and emergency spills responses throughout the fiscal year. Sometimes the amount spilled can be obtained simply by the responsible party indicating how much was in the tank before and after the spill or via disposal receipts after cleanup. In other instances, a calculation is based on the spill being on a pervious or impervious surface utilizing spill length, width, and depth. For active spills like sewage releases, calculation factors include length of time flowing and flow rate.
FY 2015-16 Results
The goal for this measure was established at 700,000 gallons of pollutants. As a result of 479 stormwater inspections of businesses/industry and 1,222 citizen pollution complaint investigations and emergency spill responses, the Department prevented 5,564,890 gallons of pollutants from entering the City’s waterways.
Assessment of Results
The significant rise in gallons recovered for FY 2015-16 was the result of a single wastewater cleanup of 5 million gallons in February 2016 from a washed-out sewer line in a creek. Staff cannot predict the spill events that will occur (number of spills; what is, amount, and impact of spills; and the ability for spill recovery) during their inspections or investigations in any given year, which explains the variability of pollutants recovered from year to year. In FY 2015-16, staff investigated six incidents, such as broken water lines, a fire suppression system discharge from a large hospital, and construction site dewatering sediment discharges, which resulted in fish kills in Lake Creek, Shoal Creek, and Waller Creek. Previous years’ recoveries have also included spills related to vehicle accidents and flooding.
The Department works with other departments and regulated entities, such as Austin Water, the Fire and Police Departments, Austin Resource Recovery, and Austin Public Health to prevent and reduce pollution. The Department is also developing strategies to handle the additional 2,000 industrial and high-risk facilities identified as requiring an inspection by State mandate and inspection of City pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer storage locations to verify compliance with our Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) permit. Watershed also plans to associate impaired water bodies with pollution data to identify pollution “hot spots,” to further pollution prevention efforts for food service operations and mobile food vendors, to step up promotion of the City’s 24-Hour Pollution Hotline, and will seek ways to improve environmental services in East Austin under the East Austin Environmental Initiative.
For more information contact Sharon Cooper, Environmental Conservation Program Manager for the Pollution Prevention and Reduction Program, at (512) 974-2448.