Who's Polluting Barton Springs?

The city of Austin aims to track down and expose the biggest polluters of Barton Springs as part of an overall plan to clean up the waterway and prevent future problems. The City Council passed the proposal on consent last week, instructing staff to determine the cost and time of such an undertaking, which will be performed in-house.

"I'm keeping in mind the budget situation and the load on the staff," said Council Member Daryl Slusher, who took the lead on co-sponsoring the item with Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Raul Alvarez. "We're trying to move deliberately on this, and eventually get to a point where we can publicize who's polluting the springs." The city will also consider other partners in the source-identification process, such as the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the Lower Colorado River Authority, individual volunteers, and private industry. Once the polluter is identified, the city will examine how to rectify the problem, Slusher further explained in a memo to council. The cleanup will not necessarily be at the city's expense, he said.

Slusher's measure won tempered support from the Save Our Springs Alliance. Nevertheless, Executive Director Bill Bunch couldn't resist taking a swipe. "In searching for 'the biggest polluters,'" he wrote in a letter to City Council, "you will find them among the private as well as public projects that were and continue to be approved -- and in many cases funded or subsidized -- by the Austin City Council."

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