Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Samsung’s only manufacturing center in the U.S., had spilled over 700,000 gallons of acidic waste into its stormwater pond and an unnamed tributary of Harris Branch Creek in Northeast Austin over a period of several months, according to a memo shared on the city’s official website.
Austin’s Watershed Protection Department was alerted to the predicament on Tuesday, January 18, by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which found that “up to 763,000 gallons of acidic waste reached the stormwater pond on the Samsung property and also impacted the nearby tributary of Harris Branch Creek” over a period as long as 106 days. The spilling resulted in the tributary’s pH level falling to between 3 and 4, values that are overly acidic for surface water.
“Watershed Protection Department (WPD) staff found virtually no surviving aquatic life within the entire tributary from the Samsung property to the main branch of Harris Branch Creek, near Harris Branch Parkway,” Coyne noted. “However, no measurable impacts to water chemistry or aquatic life were noted further downstream, and there was no iron staining to indicate any drop in pH had occurred within the main branch of Harris Branch Creek.”
Samsung, which notified authorities regarding the spill on Friday, January 14, says that it has retained a leading environmental engineering company as a partner to minimize impact to the environment and restore the tributary. That said, the pH of the tributary has already returned close to normal levels, according to Coyne’s memo.