Skip to comments.Cycling star gets stuck in muck - Lance Armstrong ruins swimming hole but "Cares about the planet"
Posted on 10/06/2006 1:29:37 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
DEAD MAN'S HOLE When Lance Armstrong, the famous cancer-slayer and Tour de France champion, bought a 200-acre ranch in the Texas Hill Country several years ago, his neighbors didn't expect any trouble.
Despite his fame, they figured they had something in common with the star cyclist, who was drawn to this countryside about 40 miles west of Austin for the same reasons they all were: the breathtaking landscape, the privacy of the hills and, above all, a shimmering emerald pool hidden deep in the embrace of a fern-draped limestone grotto.
Armstrong was so taken with the pool, called Dead Man's Hole, that he began his 2003 book, Every Second Counts, with descriptions of it. He writes that jumping off the 45-foot waterfall into the pool was his "own personal way of checking for vital signs" after cancer, and that facing the fear of the jump was a cleansing, clarifying experience.
But there's nothing clear about Dead Man's Hole now. Three years later, the water has turned from glassy green to pea soup and Armstrong is in hot water with his neighbors, who blame his dam-building project for causing a mess that he has yet to clean up.
"Lance is a spokesman for Don't Mess With Texas," said 52-year-old landowner John Davis, referring to the state's celebrity-studded anti-litter campaign. "He's lent his name to this great cause and then, when it comes to cleaning up his own mess, he won't do it."
Not so, said Armstrong, who maintained he's doing whatever it takes to restore clarity to the creek that he "loves as much, if not more than, anybody else."
"To say that we're not making progress and that we're just stalling is completely and patently false," he said. "I'm really sorry they're upset, but I've done everything I can do and I'm going to continue to ultimately fix it," said Armstrong, who refers to his neighbors as "busybodies with not a lot to do."
He said his attorney, Jerry Webberman, has been meeting with consultants, trying to determine a cleanup method that's best for the environment, a process that takes time.
"It's just not one of those types of problems that has an easy fix or at least not one that's real quick and obvious," Webberman said.
Problem began with dam
Meanwhile, several of the dozen landowners who have access to the pool have refused to swim there and blame Armstrong for robbing them of two summers in the pristine waters they have jealously guarded for years.
The water has cleared some, but the sediment has begun feeding an algae problem, according to experts, and a slimy muck still lines the bottom of a pool that was once clear enough for snorkeling.
The trouble started about a year and a half ago, when Armstrong hired a contractor to dam a stretch of Dead Man's Creek that runs through his property. He planned a recreational pond and watering hole for animals.
But the construction sent sediment rushing into the pool and sent neighbors over the edge, demanding that Armstrong scrap the project and clean up the mess.
Armstrong said he regrets ever starting the project and has spent half a million dollars attempting to restore the creek bed. He said he was unaware that he needed permits to build the dam and abandoned construction immediately when he found out. Neighbors dispute that, saying construction carried on a bit longer.
"We started the project under bad advice. My bad," Armstrong said. "I've proven that I care about the hole. If it's financial or environmental, I'll do whatever it takes to fix what was unfortunately started."
His attorney worked with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to resolve two violations : failure to obtain a proper permit and unauthorized discharge of sediment into state water.
"The matter is resolved as far as we're concerned," TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow said this week.
She said Armstrong wasn't fined because he took quick corrective action. And she said TCEQ officials have determined that removing the sediment manually, by flushing it downstream in large quantities, could be more dangerous to the environment than allowing it to flow out naturally in a big rain.
But landowners say no one ever suggested the muck should be flushed downstream. Instead, they say, they've researched the matter and come up with a solution that basically amounts to sending scuba divers with vacuums to the bottom of the hole.
The muck would be sucked through a filtering system that would return clean water to the creek, a process that would likely take two weeks and cost $50,000 to $60,000, said Jerry Hill, a 51-year-old woodworker who has lived near the pool for nearly 25 years.
Landowners also point to a study by a city of Austin expert who concluded the best option for combating the algae and restoring clarity is to remove the offending sediment. The report said it could take a 10-year flood to wash it out naturally.
Considering current drought conditions, Hill and other landowners say they don't want to wait that long.
"We've seen half a dozen of those rains in 25 years," said Hill, who stood with his wife, Kathy, examining the milky green water one afternoon this week.
'It's just so aggravating'
Hill said landowners have reached out to Armstrong and tried to solve the problem in a neighborly way, but they have largely been referred to his attorney, who doesn't appear in a hurry to find a solution.
"It's just so aggravating because it's so obvious what's the right thing for a decent person to do," Hill said.
"Well, some people just think they're above it all," his wife said.
Landowners say Armstrong's celebrity status may be contributing to the delay in reaching a solution.
"His lawyer said, 'Oh, everybody just wants to touch Lance,' and it's like, no, we just don't want him to touch us anymore," Kathy Hill said. Webberman denied making the comment.
Landowners said their famous neighbor has stopped returning calls and declined invitations to meet with them, instead sending representatives. And he didn't sign a cleanup agreement proposed in August by 11 landowners.
"If you're going to be downstream from somebody, don't be downstream from somebody famous," Davis said.
Armstrong acknowledges he's busy, especially with his nonprofit foundation that assists cancer patients around the world. He said the ranch is only one of his homes (he also has a house in Austin), and when he's out there he'd rather spend time with his kids than neighbors who are anything but neighborly.
A few landowners have yelled at him, sent him nasty notes, frequently trespassed on his property and one even gave him a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale, Armstrong said.
"These people are incredible. I've never seen anything like it. And then they wonder why I don't come and hang out with them," he said.
Still, he has no intentions of selling the ranch. He recently expanded his property to 450 acres and said he plans to do conservation easements on both tracts.
"I'm a guy who drives a hybrid (car)," the cyclist said. "I care about the planet, period."
Lance is a bit too arrogant here and he's definitely gotten some preferential treatment. Claiming ignorance for not knowing he had to get permits to build a dam is laughable. Even though he's a celeb, Lance is darn lucky he hasn't gotten slammed with multi million dollar fines for this stunt.
I don't blame the neighbors for being mad. Sounds like they've come up with an affordable solution and Lance ought to comply. He is lucky the environmental whackos haven't camped out on his doorstep yet but after this publicity, they just might.
just wanted to be the first. :-)
That doesn't do diddly to restore two lost summers for the children.
I hope he's not.
It's all about ME!
I'm no cyclist fan, but it seems his rep is down the toilet. I guess he bad mouths old teammates.
Any lic contractor would have been aware that you need a permit for ANYTHING they build.
Damn dam water. What an ahole.
Either stupid or lying.
"He said he was unaware that he needed permits to build the dam..."
I find this patently unbelievable. But, unless he built the dam with his own hands, the contractor must have been pretty unbelievably stupid too.
Most celebs don't have idea one about how the "real world" operates. Most have "people" who take care of the "details", so they can "concentrate on the important things" (like getting their mugs in front of any camera and muttering stupid statements...while they "work with their 'fill in the blank'"....)
So, the water is improving BUT, 'according to experts'...
Wouldn't be a case of the Houston Chronicle having an ax to grind with a guy seen biking with President Bush by dredging (/s) up a two year old story, now would it?
"I don't blame the neighbors for being mad. Sounds like they've come up with an affordable solution and Lance ought to comply. He is lucky the environmental whackos haven't camped out on his doorstep yet but after this publicity, they just might."
Lance should just say sorry, cough up the 60k and let the scuba divers vacuum the dam. Then again, he probably cares more about killing the algae than to allow people to swim in what sounded like a great swimming hole.
""If you're going to be downstream from somebody, don't be downstream from somebody famous," Davis said."
Beacuse then you have to deal with all their sh@* !
Is that the only car he owns...?
Jeez. Why didn't Clinton think of saying that. He could have ended Monica-gate in just two words.
All is better now. So move on.
It is a very fine powder, made from the skin of grapes. It is a very expensive commodity, but it would work perfectly in this situation.
When fermenting wine (or beer), it is very cloudy and/or opaque due to all of the particulates floating around (same as the waterhole). Add grape pectin after the fermentation, and it "coagulates" the particulate matter and causes it to sink to the bottom, collecting more particulates as it makes its way down (the clear wine is then siphoned out). With enough pectin, he could clear it in a week. It would cost less than the 500K he's spent on it already.
Yeah, rules & regulations are for the little people, not me.
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