WEATHER WATCH
Sulfuric acid waste from Austin Samsung facility spills into local tributary, city says
File image of the Samsung logo. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A memo sent to the Austin City Council this week says a "large discharge of sulfuric acid waste" from the Samsung semiconductor plant left "virtually no surviving aquatic life" in a local tributary.

The memo from the city's Watershed Protection Department says that over a period as long as 106 days, up to 763,000 gallons of acidic waste reached the stormwater pond on the Samsung property, located at 12100 Samsung Boulevard, in northeast Austin.

That waste also impacted the nearby tributary of Harris Branch Creek -- killing the aquatic life in the tributary.

Sulfuric acidic waste from the Austin Samsung facility has spilled into an unnamed tributary of Harris Branch Creek in northeast Austin, according to a memo sent to the Austin City Council this week. (Source: City's Watershed Protection Department)

The memo states the Watershed Protection Department was alerted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on Tuesday, Jan. 18. 

A spokesperson for Austin's Samsung facility told CBS Austin they notified TCEQ and the National Response Center about the spill on Friday, Jan. 14.

"A majority of the wastewater was contained on-site; however, a portion was inadvertently released into an unnamed small tributary that is upstream of Harris Branch Creek," said Samsung's spokesperson Michele Glaze. "We immediately stopped the release, retained a leading environmental engineering company as a partner, and took action to implement a solution to minimize impact to the environment and restore the tributary."

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Scientists say despite the tributary being affected temporarily, the water's pH and wildlife at Harris Branch Creek were not impacted. Samsung said they are fully cooperating with WPD and providing daily updates on the remediation process while scientists will be performing weekly surveys to monitor the water quality at the tributary until remediation is complete.

The memo noted the area's access is limited to the public, with no nearby parks nor indications of homeless encampments. However, TCEQ will be looking to see if there are any impacts on human health.

Full statement from Michele Glaze, Head of Communications and Community Affairs at Samsung Austin Semiconductor:

  • Samsung Austin Semiconductor is committed to environmental stewardship and recognizes our role in preserving the natural beauty of Central Texas.
  • On Jan. 14, we discovered a release of industrial wastewater that entered our stormwater collection pond.
  • A majority of the wastewater was contained on-site; however, a portion was inadvertently released into an unnamed small tributary that is upstream of Harris Branch Creek.
  • We immediately stopped the release, retained a leading environmental engineering company as a partner and took action to implement a solution to minimize impact to the environment and restore the tributary.
  • The ecological impact was a temporary lowering of pH levels in the tributary only - none in the creek.
  • The water within the tributary has already returned to normal conditions.
  • Harris Branch Creek is confirmed to be unaffected.
  • Appropriate agencies were notified and we are fully cooperating with all of them.
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