AUSTIN -- Construction continues at the controversial Austin Aquarium site in Northwest Austin.
The Covino family has been the center of a Humane Society investigation in Portland after nearly 200 animals died in their aquarium there. They also own an aquarium in Idaho. At the site of the aquarium in Austin, the family has already been plagued by protests and problems.
As opening day gets closer, they tell KVUE they want the public to see how they're building this facility every step of the way.
“Everything's been 100 percent legal and on schedule,” said head engineer Peter Covino, whose sons own the aquarium.
City permits decorate the outside doors. Inside the facility's tanks and walls are slowly taking shape.
In one tank workers carefully installed a heavy two-inch thick acrylic window, designed to let people get a closer look at the marine life that will live inside.
“We've completed building all the tanks that the fish will occupy. We're now decorating them and filling them up with water for testing,” Covino said.
Rain water is being used to test for leaks.
“Then we'll take that water out and put in the salt water we have. We get it from the Gulf of Mexico and bring it in and we purify it,” Covino said.
The aquarium will use special rocks in each exhibit. Right now they are growing certain bacteria said to be beneficial to the fish. In September they gave the public a sneak peek of what it has to offer, showing off snakes, spiders and turtles to visitors.
The 22,000 square-foot aquarium will be home to more than 3,000 creatures - from sharks to starfish.
“This is an interactive facility,” Covino said. “We'll have classrooms, we'll have 20 to 40-inch flat screen TVs to interact with, that teach you about the environment, how to take care of the environment and take care of our wildlife. So it's also educational as well as a lot of fun.”
Covino says the aquarium already has marine biologists and zoologists on staff. He also says recent controversy won't keep the facility from opening its doors.
“We've had permits for everything we have done, we've had permission for everything we have done,” he said.
Covino hopes Austin residents will give it a chance to sink or swim on its own merits and withhold judgment until the grand opening. The aquarium is set to be finished by Dec. 1.