testing the waters

Austin’s citywide boil water notice lifted with these recommendations

Austin’s citywide boil water notice lifted with these recommendations

Water faucet
Austin Water encourages locals to run cold water through all faucets for at least a minute before drinking or cooking with tap water. City of Austin/Instagram

KVUE — Utility provider Austin Water has lifted the citywide boil water notice it first issued Saturday night, February 5 after getting the green light from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

All Austin Water customers can resume using tap water without boiling it before use.

However, the utility provider said residents should flush household pipes, ice makers, and water fountains before using the water for drinking or cooking. Austin Water recommends:

  • Running all cold water faucets for one minute.
  • Making and discarding three batches of ice to flush ice makers.
  • Running water softeners through the regeneration cycle.

If water looks cloudy after flushing plumbing lines, customers are asked to call Austin Water at 512-972-1000 to report the issue.

The boil notice was issued late Saturday after Austin Water discovered “an internal treatment process issued that resulted in high turbidity” at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. Water use restrictions were also put in place but were lifted Monday evening, February 7.

“The boil water notice has been lifted and customers can resume use of their tap water for consumption,” said Austin Water director Greg Meszaros on Tuesday night. “Austin Water will immediately begin a thorough review of the incident and will implement any necessary process improvements to avoid operator errors in the future.”

“Thank you for your patience,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “We should not be dealing with frequent water boils, and we all have questions. The council will be meeting next week so that the city manager can answer questions for us and the public. We need to be confident that this won’t happen again.”

Meszaros said on Sunday morning, February 6 that officials believed the boil water notice may have been the result of human error but cautioned that information was preliminary.

He said that the problem appears to have arisen from “a staff operations issue” and “how we operate the plant.”

“We will go through a review of our data and interview people and do other steps to see what happened with the operations,” he said. “I don’t want to speculate on details until we go through that process.”

The incident did not have to do with the recent winter storm that moved through the area, and Meszaros said the timing of the storm and the incident was a coincidence. 

The boil water notice has triggered a demand for answers among Austin City Council members, who are now seeking a meeting with water officials to explain what exactly happened leading up to the notice.

Austin Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter and five other council members are calling for an external audit of the utility provider.

“I’m calling for an external audit of Austin Water to address what happened this weekend and the pattern of water-quality challenges in recent years,” Alter said on Twitter.

The notice was the city’s third in five years.

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