The goals of the East Austin Environmental Initiative are:
- Work with the community to better identify environmental issues and problems, increase awareness and to develop community interest in pollution prevention and clean up.
- Enhance the City's environmental activities in East Austin and coordinate local, state and federal environmental efforts in the region.
- Increase the public's awareness of the Watershed Protection's water quality protection programs and the City’s water and energy conservation programs and services
- Reduce point and non-point source pollution in East Austin.
- Investigate reported environmental problems and seek solutions to those problems.
- Increase the number of inspections of permitted and non-permitted facilities and the number of Stormwater Discharge permits issued in the East Austin area.
The East Austin Environmental Initiative (EAEI) was created in the Fall of 1993 to address environmental issues in the area of Austin east of IH-35. The increase in environmental activism and awareness in the eastern region of the City, as well as the desire to maintain equity throughout the City has highlighted the need for this effort. The Initiative was originally established as a cooperative effort of 4 Watershed Protection Department (WPD) programs; the Spills & Complaints Response Program (SCRP), the Stormwater Discharge Permit Program (SDPP), the Stormwater Monitoring Program (SWMP), and the Austin Brownfields Initiative. The Initiative originally had a budget of approximately $340,000. In July of 2007 the SWMP retracted from the program citing fiscal restraints. Currently, there are 6 EAEI team members: 2 from the SCRP, 2 from the SDPP, 1 from the Brownfields Initiative, and 1 from Water Quality Education.
Initially, the EAEI focused activities in central East Austin, in the area north of Lady Bird Lake, east of IH-35, south of US 290 and west of US 183. In FY 97-98, the focus area was expanded to include areas south of the river and further north as well. This allowed coverage of most of what is traditionally considered “East Austin”. In FY 10-11, it was further expanded and today the Initiative focus area is bounded by IH-35 on the west, Ben White Blvd. on the south, Hwy. 183/Walnut Creek on the east, Hwy. 183 on the north and also along Hwy 71 East in Del Valle up to FM 973 South.
Community Outreach and Interagency
Staff from all EAEI programs work together on educational efforts targeted at the East Austin community. Staff develops and distributes written materials, including the biannual newsletter, Eastside Environmental News, as well as special educational pieces as needed, such as doorhangers and mailed surveys. Team members also attend and often speak at community events and meetings to provide information on environmental topics.
The EAEI team stays in contact with other local and state agencies to provide close coordination and cooperation on multi-jurisdictional environmental issues and to present the community’s environmental concerns.
Spills & Complaints Response Program (SCRP)
SCRP staff responds to, and investigate, hazardous and non-hazardous material spills and citizen pollution complaints to prevent and mitigate polluting discharges to the environment. Staff is available for emergency response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the City’s Environmental Hotline, 512-974-2550. A rapid response to environmental emergencies is provided to reduce potential environmental impact. SCRP staff assess the environmental impact, determine the responsible party, identify the pollutants, and ensures that corrective actions and preventive measures are taken. SCRP staff request and review sample results and remediation plans as needed, advise on applicable regulations and provide educational materials. Enforcement action is taken when necessary.
SCRP staff develops special programs and provides training to local businesses and to the community to address pollution prevention.
The Shade Tree Mechanic program was developed after staff noticed that about 20% of Hotline calls were related to pollution problems caused by do-it-yourself automotive repair. This program offers participants a one-on-one assessment of auto repair practices and a free oil change bucket.
Stormwater Discharge Permit Program (SDPP)
The Storm Sewer Discharge Permits Program involves inspection and permitting of specific commercial and industrial businesses within the Austin City limits to prevent or mitigate polluting discharges to the City storm sewers and waterways. Site inspections are conducted to evaluate waste handling, storage, and disposal practices, maintenance activities, and operational condition of water quality controls. SDPP inspectors identify and ensure correction of illegal plumbing connections to the storm sewer system; identify and ensure cleanup of surface contamination; request and review sample results and remediation plans as needed; advise on applicable environmental regulations and pollution prevention measures; and, provide educational materials for business operators. Enforcement action is taken for non-compliance when necessary.
The SDPP encourages businesses to adopt practices that reduce pollution by providing incentives through the Austin Clean Water Partners (ACWP) program. The ACWP program rewards businesses that demonstrate proactive pollution prevention and reduction practices. ACWP rewards include a framed Certificate of Participation, a poster and handbook that demonstrate appropriate businesses practices to comply with environmental regulations, T-shirts and window decals. Participants may also be recognized in local media outlets such as newspapers, television and radio stations.
The SDPP is also responsible for review of non-stormwater discharges to the City storm sewer system and waterways to prevent polluting discharges.
Austin Brownfields Redevelopment Office (ABRO)
The ABRO offers property owners/developers alternatives and incentives to address environmentally challenged real estate as economical and sustainable projects.
With the combined resources from various organizations, the ABRO can help expedite the environmental assessment, remediation and ultimately redevelopment of Brownfields properties. ABRO applies for grants from the U.S. EPA to assist funding for environmental site assessments, low interest remediation loans and redevelopment planning with the community. Staff provides assistance in coordinating federal, state, and local funding resources and facilitates interagency cooperation for Brownfields redevelopment. Staff coordinates meetings with stakeholders, distributes Brownfields redevelopment publications and provides information to residents about Brownfields in their neighborhoods. ABRO has established partnerships with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Regional Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on the Environmental Quality, Capital Area Planning Council, Austin Area Urban League, Austin Revitalization Authority, several community neighborhood associations, non-profit and for profit organizations.