r. gaft* “kU:1T. Talk on the Rock by the Springs Bad News from Barton Springs Austin Austin’s Barton Springs, probably the most beautiful natural-springs public swimming pool in the United States, is polluted. The springs themselves, flowing out of the ground, are polluted with human and animal wastes. The pool — starting in early February has had to be closed automatically after every rain. Worse than that, there is a sewer or septic-tank leak into the aquifer that is constantly polluting the springs with medically-dangerous human wastes. On February 4 the Austin AmericanStatesman reported that Barton’s “will be closed every time it rains an inch or more because of the presence of high levels of bacteria.” This was a new development. The sign at the pool that day said, “Pool Closed. No Swimming Due to High Bacteria Count.” Readings taken the preceding weekend had showed about 1,200 fecal colonies per 100 milliliters of water, six times higher than the maximum acceptable level for water that people swim in. But this first stage of the bad news indicated the problem was occurring only after rains. After two days, the pollution was clearing. Now it’s constant. Dr. Maureen McReynolds, the city’s director of environmental management, told the Observer on February 24 that tests show “pollution in the springs” not only from rain runoff, but also from either a broken sewer line or a septic tank that is now leaking into the aquifer. “That has us really concerned,” she said. ‘That day she was informing the city council, and the city’s scientists were going out to try to fmd the leak. The pool, closed for cleaning, was to be kept closed until they found it. . “The presence of a sewer line in the creek has been a concern,” Dr. McReynolds said. “Segments of sewer line have been laid up above the creek to accommodate the development.” THE SPRINGS, according to the Handbook of Texas, published in 1952, “rise from limestone strata that are a part of the Balcones Fault. The waters of the fissure spring are collected and distributed within the sub-surface limestone. The movement of the waters for several miles through the limestone causes it to be well filtered, and it 4 MARCH 12, 1982 By Ronnie Dugger emerges so clean that objects 15 or 20 feet away often seem quite near. The flow of the springs varies from a minimum of 15 million to as much as 42 million gallons daily. “The lure of the gushing spring made it a favorite Indian camp site; it was a stopping place for Spanish explorers; and in 1730, when the Spanish missions were moved from East Texas, one was located temporarily on the bluff south of the springs. In, 1837 William \(Uncle named, patented the land and homesteaded there, but the springs continued to be a favorite meeting place, picnic ground, and camp site. In 1917 the city of Austin purchased the springs and the surrounding grounds for a municipal park.. Since that time the area has become one of the best known recreational centers in Central Texas.” From the upstream to the downstream dams, both of which form walks for the swimmers, Barton’s stretches for about the length of three city blocks. The steep, richly green banks, the stately trees \(their roots tapping the steady attract tens of thousands of people every year. When UT is in session the college students swarm the place, especially during dead week in May and in September as spring turns to autumn. The high bahk on the north side, at such times, glistens with skin, people, the many-colored suits. Children and their parents play in the upper end of the pool, which shallows out for wading. And there are “the regulars,” some of whom swim at Barton’s all year. ONE OF THE BEST accounts of Barton’s in the fifties concerns the friends of the naturalist, Roy Bedichek, and the chronicler of Southwestern tales and lore, J. Frank Dobie. Written by Wilson Hudson, a professor of English at UT, the account opened Hudson’s essay, “Bedichek’s Rock,” for the Observer’s special issue of June 27, 1959, on Bedichek, who had died the month before. With Hudson’s permission, we reprint his paragraphs on Bedichek’s circle at Barton’s: ” ‘These boys are having such a devil of a good time that I hate to get them out.’ These were the last words that I heard him speak. Mr. Bedichek was watching his grandson John and a friend of his dive into the deep, clear water of Barton Springs. With his grandfather’s help John was practicing getting his head down and straightening his body out. It was six o’clock and Mr. Bedichek was afraid that Mrs. Bedichek would be worried; he had told her he would be home at five. My wife and I had come out at about 4:30. We had been much surprised to see Mr. Bedichek sitting on the concrete across the creek. It was too early in the season for him May 20 and he was
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