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Expert says 3 boil water notices in 4 years is not normal for a city the size of Austin

Texas State Professor Dr. Keisuke Ikehata suggests more advanced technology to lower the risk of human error.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Water has issued three boil water notices in the last four years, but is that normal for a city with more than a million residents?

Dr. Keisuke Ikehata, a civil engineering assistant professor at Texas State University, said no, it's not normal.

"This is not very common, to say the least," said Ikehata. "Usually, that doesn't happen very often because everything is so automated and everything's so sophisticated these days."

Austin Water said the high level of turbidity, or cloudiness in the water, was caused by human error, which also was part of the issue during the 2021 boil water notice.

"Last year, to simply not be able to turn on the backup power during Winter Storm Uri and now this year, it's not paying attention," said Executive Director of Save Our Springs Alliance Bill Bunch.

Bunch has been calling for changes at Austin Water.

"We simply need new leadership at the Austin Water utility," said Bunch.

Ikehata said the entire Austin water system needs more advanced technology to lower the chance of human error affecting drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people.

"We could implement using ozone and membranes, another one that physically removes pathogens from water," said Ikehata.

Ikehata said boil water notices for turbidity aren't usual either.

He said, typically, you see boil water notices in portions of rural areas for pressure issues, like the one Fayette County announced Monday.

So while that human error is under investigation, multiple Austin City Council members are calling for an independent audit to find out what went wrong at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant to prevent it from happening again.

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