10/10/11 11:56am

Low water levels have exposed more Lake Houston automotive bounty than just that mid-eighties Pontiac Fiero that was liberated from the city’s water supply over the summer: There’s lots more tires and car batteries to be found, too. Before the weekend’s rains threatened to cover it all up again, area residents pulled various debris and about about 100 tires found wedged in the mud from an old abandoned fish camp and marina at the end of Stillson Rd. on the city reservoir’s east side.

Photos: Roger Randall

08/23/11 7:48am

NEW BRAUNFELS CANS THE BEER CANS As expected, the city council of New Braunfels voted last night to prohibit the use of any type of disposable container within city limits — including the beer cans that regularly pile up underwater on stretches of the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers popular with tubers. The new ordinance is scheduled to go into effect next January: “The ban was approved – on a 5-1 vote – after one protester had been arrested, another had thrown a volleyball-sized wad of dollar bills at the council, a lawsuit had been promised, and citizens had paraded to the podium for an hour to express their support or opposition.” [Herald-Zeitung; previously on Swamplot] Video of Comal River bottom after Memorial Day: Texas Bottle Bill

08/22/11 2:35pm

TUBING IN NEW BRAUNFELS WITHOUT THE CANS The New Braunfels city council is scheduled to vote this evening on an ordinance that would change the face of Guadalupe and Comal River tubing as we know it, by banning all disposable containers on those popular waterways within city limits. The same body already voted 5-2 in favor of the beer-can ban earlier this month. The vote has been moved from city hall to the city convention center to accommodate expected crowds. “[Don’s & Ben’s liquor store assistant manager Brendon] Keith and other retailers are scratching their heads over what devices tubers might employ — the proposed ordinance doesn’t specify. A Thermos or canteen wouldn’t keep carbonated beverages fresh on an hours-long float, and you’d have to have a nondisposable cup . . . Another potential problem is that any beverage delivery device that’s not sealed would be, strictly speaking, a violation of the state open container law.” [Statesman] Photo: Lelombrik

08/17/11 11:16pm

This quarter-century-old Pontiac Fiero was pulled out of Lake Houston yesterday. It’s one of 2 cars recently discovered to have been parked in what used to be the lower depths of the Houston reservoir. One benefit of the drought: Since water levels at the lake have dropped by 6 1/2 to 7 feet, it’s now so much easier to find long-missing vehicles and other debris flavoring the city water supply. The 2-seater was a stolen sportscar believed to have been hanging out in the lake since 1990. Also found sleeping with the fishes near the lake bottom, according to HPD marine unit sergeant T.W. Harding: “tires, logs, all kinds of trash, beer cans beyond belief, a lot of soft drink bottles and beer bottles from the 1950s.”

More pics of the HPD lake patrol unit’s Fiero rescue:


05/24/11 5:07pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON’S GIVE AND TAKE “. . . COH is required by very clear and strict regulations to treat sewage to standards which make the effluent suitable for discharge into a waterway which can than have water extracted for purification into drinking water. A huge number of communities get their drinking water and discharge their sewage effluent into and from the same body of water. Think of the Trinity River. It’s no big deal.” [Spoonman., commenting on Comment of the Day: Bayou Overlook]

03/03/11 7:04pm

Yesterday a spokesperson for Landry’s told Galveston County Daily News Reporter Michael A. Smith that the company had already investigated claims that pieces of the Flagship Hotel it’s dismantling on Galveston’s 25th St. pier were finding their way into the water and “determined [them] to be false.” But what reports had the company actually looked into? By Wednesday, a website run by Galveston real-estate agent Bill Hill was featuring 7 separate accounts from witnesses claiming to have seen demolition workers or machinery knocking pieces of the building into the Gulf. And then there’s the video above, one of 3 assembled and posted Monday night by Flagship pier surfer Jeff Seinsheiner from a much longer weekend filming session. “The quality is shaky from shivers & cheap camera with no image stabilizer,” Seinsheiner explains in a note on Hill’s website. But: “I knew this would become a he said/she said without solid proof, so this should stop the nonsense.” As long as you look at it closely:

Watch for the bobcat on the first floor at 0:40…at 0:48 I see midair debris and at 0:49 I see splash. At 1:25 I see debris falling, at 1:26 splash, at 1:27 debris mid air, at 1:28 splash with more mid air debris above it.

Seinsheiner comments on the soundtrack of a later clip, which includes multiple OMGs: “By the way, we are non-denominational, but I needed a higher power for strength, as you’ll hear in the audio.” His camerawork appears to have had some effect.


03/02/11 7:07pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: IN THE CLEAR WATERS OF THE GULF “I take my kids there every couple of weeks all summer and we are in and out of the water all day. I don’t know what it used to be like in the 80s but when we go to Stewart beach now the water is clear, we see dolphins almost every visit and fish literally swim between your toes periodically. I didn’t go down there for a couple of years after moving out here because of the horror stories I heard. They were nonsense then and they’re still nonsense now.” [Jimbo, commenting on Galveston’s Flagship Hotel Fades into the Sunset, Leaves a Few Big Chunks in the Gulf]

02/24/11 11:49pm

GALVESTON BAY OIL SPILL: JUST A LITTLE TOPPING-OFF ACCIDENT According to the Coast Guard, the three-quarter-mile-long oil slick that made a few residents of San Leon feel a bit queasy, then washed up on the rocks at April Fool Point a week ago came from a spill caused by a Liberian-flag oil tanker — almost a week and a half earlier. The Omega Emmanuel reported a 50-gallon spill on February 8th as it was docked off Bolivar and taking on fuel from a barge. But the Coast Guard only tied the fuel oil to the tanker after environmental testing was completed this past Wednesday. “The cleanup ‘is complicated because the oil is embedded in the rocks,’ [Coast Guard petty officer Prentice] Danner said. ‘It takes slushing (agitation) to get it out, so I can’t speculate on how long it will take.'” Is that the same goo off the coast of Bacliff too? [Ultimate Clear Lake; previously on Swamplot]

02/22/11 4:52pm

Update, 2/24: Oh, just 50 gallons, they’re saying now.

Coast Guard officials have yet to determine the cause of the “oily sheen” that appeared in Galveston Bay last week, but the cleanup has continued for several days and workers have still not identified the source. A three-quarter-mile-long sheen off the coast at Sixth St. in San Leon “was making some residents feel ill” when it appeared last Thursday, according to a report in the Galveston County Daily News. About 30 workers from Phoenix Pollution Control and Environmental Services were still cleaning up oily goo from a mile-long stretch of shoreline near April Fool Point at San Leon’s southern tip, a Coast Guard official told the Chronicle‘s Robert Stanton today. But the photo above, showing the slick on rocks at Bacliff — on the far northwestern side of the same peninsula — was sent to abc13 earlier today by a photographer who comments that workers didn’t want pictures taken. Another photo submitted by the same person appears to show boom deployed in the water off Grand Ave.:


01/05/11 12:23pm

Having perhaps worked its way through the 100,000 gallons of raw sewage dumped into Buffalo Bayou shortly before New Year’s, the Houston Ship Channel received an additional contribution late yesterday: 15,000 gallons of beef tallow, which leaked into the waterway from a storm drain. There is, of course, much more where that came from: a rupture in an onshore tallow tank owned by a California company called Jacob Sterns and Sons caused 250,000 gallons of animal fat to spill on the waterway’s northern banks. A three-quarter-mile stretch of the channel — from City Dock 16 to the Buffalo Bayou Railroad Bridge — has been closed.

Some video of the scene, where six boats have deployed boom, from abc13:


01/04/11 2:52pm

Nestlé Waters of North America, distributors of the Ozarka, Arrowhead, Calistoga, Ice Mountain, Poland Spring, Zephyrhills, Nestlé Pure Life and — yes — Deer Park brands of drinking water, has chosen to set up its next bottling operation at the corner of Bay Area Blvd. and Red Bluff Rd. But the nation’s largest bottled-water company isn’t simply seeking a Pasadena address for the convenience and caché that undoubtedly comes with the location — close to the port and just a few miles south of the city’s famed refineries and sewage-treatment plant. Nestle has also worked out an agreement with the city to use water from Pasadena’s Southeast Water Purification Plant, which is located just northeast of Ellington Field. By next year, the company plans to have 3 separate manufacturing lines in operation, each staffed by 50 employees, bottling water in a new 312,000-sq.-ft. space it’s leasing in Pasadena’s Republic Distribution Center.

Photo of Republic Distribution Center I, 10525 Red Bluff Rd.: A&B Properties

11/11/10 1:50pm

All it takes is a little subtraction! Say you’ve got 20 picocuries of cancer-friendly alpha radiation per liter in your drinking water. Well, there’s gotta be some margin of error in measuring it, right? Say, 6 picocuries per liter? Then just go ahead and subtract that number out (because you’ve gotta be optimistic about these things, you know, or it’ll kill you). Then . . . voilà! Your level of those nasty little mutation-causing particles is now just 14 picocuries. And phew! what a relief! Because the EPA’s “maximum contaminant level” for alpha radiation happens to be 15 picocuries per liter, and those math wizards at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have just saved your community’s water supply from receiving a violation notice! Slight problem: since 2000, the EPA has requested that states not use this little data-jiggering technique. But not to worry: TCEQ’s Linda Goodins, who oversees all drinking-water safety regulation for the state, doesn’t think the EPA’s request was an actual requirement. (Just to placate to those ever-meddling feds though, TCEQ discontinued its subtraction technique last year.)


07/16/10 10:04am

A TEXAS OIL SIGHTING As BP continues to monitor pressures in its newly sealed well in the Gulf, a marine biologist sights a bit of oil slick conducting an unauthorized maneuver far to the west: “‘We saw about a half-mile thick line of oil on the water about five miles offshore a little to the Southwest of Sabine Pass,’ [the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s Chris] Pincetich said. Official spill maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration don’t put the slick near that area. Tar balls from the spill have shown up on beaches in Galveston, but it’s believed they were brought there on the hulls of ships that passed through the oil closer to the spill site.” [Newswatch: Energy; previously on Swamplot]

07/06/10 2:43pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY HOUSTON NEEDS THAT NEW WALMART BY THE BAYOU “With all this rain, surely pollutants are leeching out from the soils of this brownfield site and flowing into White Oak Bayou. If there were a Wal-Mart here, the surface would be impermeable with only trace amounts of leaked motor oil contaminating the bayou. And as a kayaker that enjoys high water, that means less cancer for me!” [TheNiche, commenting on Only a Little Off Target: Walmart Heading Right Between Washington Ave and the Heights]