AUSTIN, Texas — When Austin Water first learned of an issue affecting the city's water supply, 12 hours passed before they issued a city-wide boil water notice, according to a report from KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman.
Austin Water told KVUE the notice was issued well within the 24-hour time period required by TCEQ, which considers exposure to potential contaminants.
High turbidity can indicate the presence of harmful bacteria in the water, and Austin Water issued the notice as a precaution, though it says disinfection parameters were strong and remained within regulatory levels.
Austin Water provided KVUE with the following preliminary timeline of actions during the 12-hour window following the turbidity incident:
8 a.m. – Increased turbidity was detected at Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. Additional operational and support staff were sent to assess the situation.
9:30 a.m. – The Ullrich Plant was taken offline and water production was increased at Austin Water’s other two plants (Davis and Handcox). The process of ramping up water production at Davis and Handcox took several hours. Water pressure within the Austin Water system and disinfection parameters remained consistent and within regulatory standards during this time.
10 a.m. – Austin Water Incident Management Team notified to report to Emergency Operations Center by noon.
12 p.m. – Austin Water Emergency Operations Center was activated to collect data for submission to TCEQ.
3 p.m. – Data collection by Austin Water was completed. TCEQ was informed by Austin Water to review a potential treatment violation. Data was provided to TCEQ for review.
5:15 p.m. – Austin Water met with TCEQ to review documentation. TCEQ determined that a boil water notice was required.
5:30 p.m. – Austin Water prepared all notification language, got translations and reviewed requirements with wholesale customers and elected officials.
7:30 p.m. – Austin Water issued the boil water notice to the public.
The City of Austin lifted the boil water notice on Tuesday evening, marking the fourth day a notice had been in effect.
"Though our water disinfection parameters were strong and remained within regulatory levels, we issued a boil water notice as a precaution, because the risk of contaminants is raised when there are suspended particles, or high levels of turbidity, in the water," an Austin Water spokesperson told KVUE. "Turbidity may indicate the presence of bacteria that can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea and associated headaches. These symptoms can be particularly severe in people who are not as resistant to infections as most of the population. If someone does experience severe symptoms, they should consult with their doctor to determine what actions should be taken."
Members of the Austin City Council have called for an external audit into the most recent notice, which Austin Water officials have said they believe stemmed from employee error.
Austin Water has issued three boil water notices since late 2018. That's in addition to a 2019 incident in which the water supply suffered an odd odor due to the presence of zebra mussels in water intake pipes.
To read the Statesman's full report, click here.
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