Feb 14, 2022

Austin Water Boil Water Notice Prompts Questions

Austin Water will be updating its communication procedures between shift changes and to plant superintendents, and use software to supervise plants remotely.

austin texas

Austin Water is answering questions following a citywide boil water notice. 

This is the third notice in four years, reported KXAN.

Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros resigned from his position after 15 years on Feb. 1.

In a memo Meszaros wrote to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the city council explaining why it took 12 hours for the notice to be issued since the onset of the problem. He also clarified if any contaminants were ever in the water system, if bills will be adjusted due to customers flushing their faucets, and more.

The boil water notice lasted Feb. 5 to 8.

The notice was brought on by employee error, according to the memo, reported KXAN. Three employees are now on administrative leave during an investigation into the events.

“A full review of this event has begun to determine the events leading up to the operational error at the Ullrich Treatment Plant and to identify corrective actions needed to prevent this from occurring again,” said Mezsaros in the memo. “The employees will not perform plant operation duties until the investigation has been completed and management has assessed any applicable discipline in accordance with the Municipal Civil Services Rules.”

According to Meszaros, at 8 a.m. on Feb. 5, “increased turbidity was detected at Ullrich Water Treatment Plant.” The plant was taken offline by 9:30 a.m. and production was increased at the city’s two other plants, Davis and Handcox, reported KXAN. 

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Austin Water notified its Emergency Operations Center by noon and it began to take samples for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to test. TCEQ began testing samples at 11 p.m. Feb. 7. Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk and the city council were notified that the samples passed TCEQ testing and the notice was lifted.

So far, there has been no evidence of contaminants in the water during this event. As far as customers’ bills being potentially adjusted due to recommended faucet flushes, Austin Water is not planning to adjust customers’ bills.

“Austin Water has taken immediate steps to increase system redundancies that include increasing the frequency of turbidity audible alarms, automatic notification of supervisors for turbidity exceedances, and automatic shutdown of the filtration system when turbidities are exceeded,” said Meszaros in the memo, reported KXAN.

Austin Water will be updating its communication procedures between shift changes and to plant superintendents, and use software to supervise plants remotely.

Austin’s city council has a specially called meeting on Feb. 15 to discuss this emergency, reported KXAN.

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