Oil spill in South Austin: nobody fessing up to the mess

A fuel spill investigation us underway in South Austin. Residents in the Travis Heights neighborhood reported the petroleum odor. Last night, a neighbor even said there was fuel floating on Lady Bird Lake.

Crews worked for hours across from Travis Heights Elementary School, trying to get rid of a mystery petroleum spill. Justin Ouellette brought his children to the playground, but was curious as to what crews were cleaning up.

"There's a shallow river bed. We did notice some guys with watershed insignias so I assumed they were checking it out because of the rain or something like that," said Ouellette, passerby.

An anonymous neighbor says Thursday night he saw a chemical sheen on Lady Bird Lake as he was canoeing. He also says he smelled the strong odor similar to diesel. Shortly after, someone called pollution response out to Travis Heights Elementary. The city says if not caught early, this kind of fluid could wreak havoc to certain animals along nearby bodies of water.

"It can of course cause fish kills, all types of impacts into the streams of lakes," said Patrick Kelly, City of Austin Watershed Protection.

The city contacted Google Fiber about the origin of the spill.

"We got in touch with them to see if they knew what had happened, because they were here working on site and a citizen did see them do some pressure washing and so they're looking into what may have happened in their equipment," said Kelly.

The company released a statement saying:

"On Thursday night, we were informed of a spill that occurred near a google fiber construction site. Our contractor has reported no mechanical issues that would have caused the spill, but because they were nearby, they immediately responded to the city's request for help in cleaning it up. In situations like this, the first priority is to fix the problem. Our contractor is working with the city to ensure the area is completely restored, and working with the city to further research the source of the spill," said Mark Strama, Head of Google Fiber in Austin.

Ultimately, the company did take responsibility in the cleanup effort, but still did not say they were responsible for the actual spill.

"Accidents happen and if people can address it and do their job then we're all ok," said Ouellette.

Austin Watershed Protection did take a sample to see what kind of oil it actually is.


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