Failure at Pflugerville water treatment plant possibly exposed residents to parasite, says city

The city of Pflugerville says that for nearly a year, a failure at their water treatment plant may have exposed residents to a parasite.

The state has flagged the city for not meeting standards. The city says the water is safe to drink now and that there was not a threat to residents' health. 

Callie Rocha is one of the thousands of Pflugerville residents who are just finding out that their drinking water did not meet minimum state standards, possibly exposing them to a parasite called cryptosporidium.

"Public knowledge is always first and foremost," Rocha said. "You can't help but be suspicious about anything that's covered up or not made known until later."

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality flagged Pflugerville, saying the city failed to properly treat the water between October 2018 and September 2019, excluding December and April.

Cryptosporidium causes a diarrheal disease and symptoms typically appear seven days after infection.

"I can't determine if it's from the water or not but I have noticed my stomach has been a little not happy," Rocha said.

City officials say invasive zebra mussels populated and damaged the water filtration system at the plant. The mollusks can have severe environmental, economic and quality of life impacts.

"As we saw here in Austin recently when zebra mussels get into a pipeline there is a possibility they can die in the pipeline and leave the water foul-smelling and foul-tasting," Texas Parks & Wildlife senior scientist Monica McGarrity said. "They can reach up to 700,000 of these mussels in just a square yard so when they attach at this density they can clog intakes, they can clog the trash racks over intakes, they can cause significant damage to the machinery."

City officials have hired industry experts and did reprogramming and training to get the water up to standards.

So far the city says they have not received reports of people getting sick and recommends anyone with concerns to call their doctor.