Austin Water says Bull Creek sewage spill likely won't reach Colorado River

Austin Water reported about 25,000 gallons of sewage overflowed into Bull Creek near Old Spicewood Springs Road. 

A caller alerted them to the spill after noticing sewage coming out of a manhole in the area. 

“It's pretty massive, pretty substantial,” said John Higley, CEO of Environmental Quality Operations

Austin Water said the spill will not affect drinking water, but did kill about 165 fish. It was caused by grease, rags and wipes flushed down the drain. 

“We ask people not to flush anything down the toilet, except for toilet paper. Disposable wipes sometimes go down there. Even though they say disposable, they're not actually disposable. Sometimes people put paper towels, put grease into the sewer and we ask people not to do that,” said Kevin Koeller, division manager for collection center engineering at Austin Water. 

Crews started working on 4:30 Saturday afternoon to pump sewage out of the creek and clean up what they could. 

“We recovered a large amount of wastewater,” Koeller said.  

Monday, Austin Water sprayed down the affected area to wash away any remaining bacteria. “Bull Creek does flow into the Colorado River, but the volume, although it was large, it probably would not reach all the way down there,” said Koeller.  

“Sewage is such a concentrated amount of bacteria, and food for algae and things like that, so a pretty significant problem and we could see issues with it as it disperses through the Colorado River,” Higley said.  

The city asked people near the affected part of the creek to stay out of the water, but they aren't putting up warnings. 

However, Higley said he doesn't suggest taking a dip near the spill site. “What they'll probably test for first is coliform counts, or basically you're testing for E. Coli and you're trying to see how much E. Coli is in the water. Until those test results come back clean, it's not a good idea to be in that water,” said Higley.  

The amount of chemicals in the waterway can also lead to more significant environmental problems, according to Higley. “You're also bringing in tons of nitrates, and nitrogen, and phosphates, and things like that that help algae bloom and cause all kinds of problems,” Higley said.  

After a summer filled with concern about toxic algae and zebra mussels, Higley said this is a good reminder to take care of one of our most valuable resources. 

“Water's at the center of all life and protecting that should be one of our top priorities,” said Higley.  

Austin Water said the Watershed Protection Department routinely tests for bacteria in Bull Creek and will alert the public if there is a concern.



Austin Water responds to report of sewage overflow near Bull Creek