An inquiry revealed that a semiconductor facility owned by Samsung Electronics Co. in Austin, Texas, discharged acidic waste for months, harming aquatic life in a nearby river. According to a Jan. 27 memorandum sent to Austin’s mayor and city council by the city’s Watershed Protection Department, the amount of acidic waste that entered the tributary is unknown, and there is “no measurable impact” on water chemistry and aquatic life further downstream in the Harris Branch Creek. On January 14, the company noticed a leak of “industrial effluent” into its stormwater collection pond, according to a statement. Samsung claimed it quickly halted the leak and took steps to reduce the environmental impact.
Samsung, which produces the majority of its products in South Korea, has a logic semiconductor plant in Austin that produces chips for other companies on a contract basis. “Samsung Austin Semiconductor is committed to environmental stewardship and recognizes our role in preserving the natural beauty of Central Texas,” said Samsung Austin Semiconductor spokesperson Michele Glaze in a statement, adding that Samsung immediately notified environmental authorities of “dilute amounts of sulphate and hydrogen peroxide within the industrial wastewater of concern.” According to the document from the Watershed Protection Department, the Samsung facility may have thrown up to 763,000 gallons of garbage into a stormwater pond on its property for up to 106 days, affecting the stream.
It added that earlier this month, sections of the tributary had a pH level that was “far below standard” for surface water, but that the pH has restored to near normal as of Jan. 19. The assessment said that “the discharge had a severe short-term impact on the aquatic community and the ecology of the tributary” because of the dead and missing aquatic species in the affected length. “It’s too early to say what the long-term consequences will be.” The Watershed Protection Department is receiving daily reports from Samsung on the stormwater pond cleanup process and will conduct an inspection before allowing the pond to reopen.
It will also conduct weekly inspections of the impacted tributary to track water quality parameters until the project is completed. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is looking into the possibility of a negative influence on human health.
While the majority of the wastewater was confined on site, a fraction was spilled into an unknown tributary, according to a Samsung spokeswoman who talked with KXAN Thursday night.
“We promptly halted the leak, enlisted the help of a prominent environmental engineering firm, and began working on a solution to reduce environmental effect and repair the tributary,” Samsung said in a statement. Ryan Vise, a TCEQ public relations officer, told KXAN that pH levels had returned to normal, but that sampling will be done to ensure that this does not change. The discharge was caused by “a leak in a sump underneath a flooring,” according to Samsung’s report to TCEQ.