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Samsung Austin Spilled 763,000 Gallons of Acid Waste Into Local Ecosystem

Samsung Austin
(Image credit: Samsung)

A report published by an Environmental Officer working for Austin City Council (PDF) reveals that there has been a massive spill of chemicals into a nearby stormwater pond, which feeds a tributary of the Harris Branch Creek in Northeast Austin. Up to 763,000 gallons of acidic waste was discharged into the pond, flowing into a nearby tributary over 100+ days. The result of the pollution, mostly sulfuric acid waste, isn't that surprising, with the Watershed Protection Department (WPD) staff reporting "virtually no surviving aquatic life" throughout the affected waterway.

Quite astonishingly, sections of the tributary to Harris Branch Creek had pH levels between 3 and 4. It is highly acidic, compared with what you would expect in a healthy pond or stream, perhaps on a par with household vinegar or grapefruit juice. A quick reference pH chart shared by the U.S. Department of the Interior indicates that at a pH of between 3 and 4, "adult fish die."

A spokesperson for Samsung has provided a statement to local news agencies such as CBS Austin. According to Samsung, "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." After discovering the release, Samsung said it stopped the discharges, hired a cleanup specialist, and is taking action to find a solution to the problem and "restore the tributary." Luckily, the main branch of the Harris Branch Creek appeared to be still unaffected by the catastrophe upstream.

(Image credit: Austin Watershed Protection Department)

Investigators confirmed the discharge has ceased and, between measurements on January 14 and 19, found the tributary had returned to close to normal acidity levels, between pH 6.7 and 8.5. At this time, the long-term impacts of the wastewater spill aren't easy to know, so ongoing monitoring by Samsung's environmental hire at the pond side and weekly monitoring by the WPD will continue.

While getting a large semiconductor plant built in your county or state might be welcome for the sake of progress, the economy, and jobs, sometimes you have to pay a moderate to heavy environmental price. In the case of Samsung Austin, countless fishes and amphibians have paid the ultimate price with their lives. The WPD report says that there was limited public access to the affected waterways, with no parks nearby and no evidence of people living in encampments in the affected areas.

Mark Tyson
Mark Tyson

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • drivinfast247
    Awesome!

    Imagine what would happen if an individual got caught pouring just a gallon of acid into a river.
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    drivinfast247 said:
    Awesome!

    Imagine what would happen if an individual got caught pouring just a gallon of acid into a river.
    Depends on which state, Texas? Who cares. California? Right to jail!
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    WTFudge...
    Spilled? Discharged? 100+ days?
    That was deliberate diarrhea.
    Reply
  • Historical Fidelity
    peachpuff said:
    Depends on which state, Texas? Who cares. California? Right to jail!
    Umm absolutely wrong, Texas penal code calls for 2 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for illegal dumping in waterways. California’s penal code is lacking compared to Texas where a first offense calls for simply a $250-1000 fine and a slap on the wrist.
    Reply
  • Endymio
    Luckily, the main branch of the Harris Branch Creek appeared to be still unaffected by the catastrophe upstream.
    Let's all make a mountain of a molehill, shall we? An "unnamed tributary" of a small creek was affected -- it returned to normal in a week, and only some river fish and frogs were killed. Perhaps the Austin City Council can spend a few million taxpayer dollars to convince people what a "catastrophe" this really was.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Endymio said:
    Let's all make a mountain of a molehill, shall we? An "unnamed tributary" of a small creek was affected -- it returned to normal in a week, and only some river fish and frogs were killed. Perhaps the Austin City Council can spend a few million taxpayer dollars to convince people what a "catastrophe" this really was.
    Just one of the thousand other molehills like this.
    Pretty soon, it is a mountain.

    But your plastic straws...now those ARE a problem.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    drivinfast247 said:
    Awesome!

    Imagine what would happen if an individual got caught pouring just a gallon of acid into a river.
    Depends on what acid since a bunch of them are naturally occurring and not particularly dangerous. A gallon of vinegar wouldn't bother anyone after it has dispersed a bit. A gallon of fluoroantimonic acid would be potentially nasty news for everything in the area.
    Reply
  • jacob249358
    peachpuff said:
    Depends on which state, Texas? Who cares. California? Right to jail!
    Don't get freedom confused with not enforcing the law. Have you seen what the LA train tracks look like?
    https://www.deseret.com/2022/1/19/22891982/los-angeles-freight-trains-looting-problem-becomes-worseThose boxes are amazon and other boxes being robbed from the trains.
    Or have you seen the extreme amount of homeless people on the streets in San Fran moving drugs and participating in crime?
    Reply
  • Historical Fidelity
    jacob249358 said:
    Don't get freedom confused with not enforcing the law. Have you seen what the LA train tracks look like?
    https://www.deseret.com/2022/1/19/22891982/los-angeles-freight-trains-looting-problem-becomes-worseThose boxes are amazon and other boxes being robbed from the trains.
    Or have you seen the extreme amount of homeless people on the streets in San Fran moving drugs and participating in crime?
    To make matters worse, the buildup of product boxes left by looters on the train tracks de-railed a train a week ago

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/train-derails-outside-among-parcels-ransacked-by-thieves/ar-AASPwly#:~:text=A%20Union%20Pacific%20train%20full%20of%20packages%20derailed,and%20Valley%20Boulevard%20in%20the%20Lincoln%20Heights%20neighborhood.
    Reply
  • drivinfast247
    InvalidError said:
    Depends on what acid since a bunch of them are naturally occurring and not particularly dangerous. A gallon of vinegar wouldn't bother anyone after it has dispersed a bit. A gallon of fluoroantimonic acid would be potentially nasty news for everything in the area.
    Ok. I figured the acid type as poisonous/corrosive was implied. I was wrong.
    Reply