The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.
Texas beaches, rivers and lakes are sometimes too polluted for recreation. That’s according to a new Environment Texas report. The advocacy group analyzed 2017 data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The state’s water bodies are tested to see whether they exceed unsafe levels of bacteria from fecal contamination.
Brian Zabcik is with Environment Texas and says many beaches have had higher-than-normal bacteria levels.
“We found that 63 percent of beach locations in Texas had bacteria levels that were unsafe swimming on at least one testing day last year,” Zabcik says.
Freshwater sites fared better when it came to contamination issues. More than 1,400 locations were tested.
“And of those locations,”Zabcik says, “forty-nine percent had at least one day of unsafe bacteria levels last year – bacteria levels that were too high to safely go swimming.”
The report lays out a number of factors that lead to unsafe bacteria levels in Texas waterways. Things like urban runoff that can pick up pet waste from parks and wash it into streams and lakes, sewage overflows, and manure from industrial-scale livestock operations.
Zabcik says Environment Texas would like to see more communication to the public about pollution in freshwater sites.
“We’re suggesting the state create an online testing website for freshwater locations that will let people know when there is unsafe bacteria levels at creeks, rivers and lakes,” he says.
The state already does this for saltwater locations. The site is texasbeachwatch.com and it’s run by the state’s General Land Office.
The Texas Education Agency has chosen a new special education director after the position sat vacant for nine months. And, the Texas Tribune reports, the candidate came from within.
Justin Porter previously served as the TEA’s executive director of special populations. He’s taking over the role in the wake of a federal investigation that found Texas illegally denied students with disabilities access to services they needed. He’s replacing Laurie Kash, who briefly held the position. She was fired last November after filing a federal complaint. She claimed the agency illegally awarded a multi-million-dollar special-education contract.
While the TEA cited a different reason for letting Kash go, it ultimately terminated that contract several months later.
The Texas Department of Transportation is looking for a new ditty for its “Don’t Mess with Texas” litter-prevention campaign. The agency is holding a contest for Texans to compose an original 30-second song. The winner will join the ranks of Texas greats who have crooned for cleaner streets, like Willie Nelson:
And Tejano Legend Sunny Sauceda:
The contest is open to all Texas residents 18 years and older, and runs through October. There will be a public voting period and two winners will be chosen – one English song and one Spanish song.