AUSTIN, Texas – The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center (TSC) at The University of Texas at Austin closed its main race pool late Wednesday afternoon due to the discovery of a leak. The university’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) department reported the leak to City of Austin Watershed personnel and other regulatory agencies and is working closely with these and other organizations to investigate possible environmental risks to nearby creeks as well as potential risks to the pool and building foundations.
John Salsman, the university’s director of EHS, said the environmental assessment will verify how much pool water was pumped through the City of Austin sanitation system and how much potentially leaked into Waller Creek. After initial site checks on Wednesday of the outfall located in Waller Creek near the campus Trinity Parking Garage, the university’s EHS staff observed:
- Noticeable levels of a chlorine smell in the air
- Detection of chlorine in the Waller Creek water
- Noticeable discoloration (bleaching) of the soil in the area of the outfall
- No dead fish or fish in distress
“While the TSC’s dive pool appears to be functioning properly, we are currently running tests to determine the source of the leak in the 50-meter race pool,” said Salsman. “Efforts include a structural damage review being conducted to pinpoint the specific location of the leak.”
Within the past 24 hours, the university stopped the addition of water into the race pool and began the process to dechlorinate the water. Engineers are also working to determine whether an empty pool or partially filled pool would help facilitate the repair work. Any release of dechlorinated pool water will be performed in accordance with environmental regulations. Athletes who were scheduled to participate in an NCAA swim meet this weekend (March 2-4) were notified Wednesday of the meet’s venue change.
According to Salsman, this is the university’s third reported incident with the creek during the past six months. In September 2016, the university reported a sewage spill into the creek that was a result of a contractor plumbing error during construction associated with the Engineering Education and Research Center. Another minor sewage leak from a nearby residence hall was reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in February.
“Waller Creek is a prominent and highly valued feature of the university’s campus,” said Salsman. “These recent incidents are not acceptable and do not reflect the university’s commitment to protecting this natural resource. We will be looking for any common, root causes during this review and redoubling our efforts to safeguard the creek.”
University officials do not yet know how long this pool review and assessment will take or how long the race pool will remain closed. Once the cause of the leak is determined, facilities staff members will perform necessary repairs before refilling and reopening the pool.