Naked City

Springs Still Not Poisoned

The level of polluted contaminants in runoff from Austin parking lots isn't as toxic as the U.S. Geological Survey initially reported in late April. The USGS revisited its test data and corrected its calculation errors in an announcement last week. The agency's findings, nevertheless, continue to reinforce city scientists' theory that coal tar sealants used on parking lots are the probable source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, that have been detected in sediment in and around Austin's waterways, including Barton Springs Pool.

The exhaustive local, state, and federal environmental studies are a response to the alarming news-and-opinion package the Austin American-Statesman published more than a year ago, in which the daily sought to discredit the city's sealant theory and tie the PAH data to a long-buried coal gasification plant up the hill from the pool – despite having no evidence that such a plant actually exists. To summarize: The newspaper warned readers that the pool area was worse than EPA Superfund sites and should be barricaded and posted with "danger" signs. In a chest-thumping opinion piece, editor Rich Oppel chided city staff's ineptness, writing, "The parking lot theory conforms to convictions of Austin activists that hard-ground surfaces, especially over the Edwards Aquifer, should be restricted to protect the environment." An editorial took an additional stab: "City Council members, bowing to intense pressure from environmentalists, kept attention on the development at the city's edges. The Watershed Protection Department was focused on the periphery to mitigate any possible degradation of Barton Springs. Time and energy devoted to those projects left the pool in peril and the public at risk."

Now, we learn, city scientists were actually well ahead of the curve in pursuing what could turn out to be groundbreaking evidence showing a direct link between coal tar sealants used on "hard-ground surfaces" and PAHs found in sediments. City and federal studies continue.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Naked City

    The transit authority debuts Rail: the Sequel, four years in the making

    Naked City

    City Hall makes its position perfectly clear: Sell the Mueller acres

    Naked City

    California kicks the machines out of its polling places
  • Naked City

    Broad-based group's plan for increasing student, community involvement

    Naked City

    The school board hears from districts that have tackled teacher incentive pay

    Naked City

    Austin author/activist Rahul Mahajan calls for increased effort to end the war

    Naked City

    The Center for Child Protection's annual Travis Co. report

    Naked City

    Texas' finest combat the glo-stick menace

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Barton Springs
The Texas Hammer: Save Our Springs (If They’ll Let Us)
Save Our Springs (If They’ll Let Us)
Austin's environmental values are in perennial conflict with the legislators

Michael King, March 17, 2017

Preserving Austin's Natural Mecca
Preserving Austin's Natural Mecca
Interactive documentary project Living Springs celebrates Barton Springs

Jessi Cape, July 31, 2015

More by Amy Smith
Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014

Section 8 Reopens
Section 8 Reopens
Hurry up ... and wait!

Oct. 3, 2014

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Barton Springs, Statesman, coal tar sealant, Barton Springs Pool, PAHs, polycyclic hydrocarbons, Rich Oppel, Watershed Protection Department, U.S. Geological Survey

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle