AUSTIN, Texas - “Yesterday we asked our customers to reduce your use and today we are now asking you to not drink from the sink,” said Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk at a 6 a.m. emergency press conference Monday morning.
Cronk told the press due to the represented amount of flooding affecting lakes and rivers, Austin Water is struggling to keep up with the impacts.
“We have 3 major drinking water plants and all of those plants draw water from the river. We’ve been reducing capacity at those plants to treat this high turbid or very cloudy water. It’s of a level that we've never experienced in the history of our utility,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros. “For example typical drinking water is .3 NTU’s of clarity or turbidity, the river water is over 400.”
Meszaros says the decision to issue a boil-water notice for Austin Water customers wasn't made lightly.
“Last night we determined that we could no longer provide adequate water into the system to preserve pressures and fire and still meet the turbidity or clarity requirements of drinking water. We haven't had a violation yet but we believe one is probable,” he said.
So how does this work? Austin Water customers have to bring all water to a rolling boil for at least 3 minutes then let it cool. We’re talking about more than just drinking water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for brushing your teeth, making ice, preparing food. This applies to pets too. Showering and bathing is ok though.
Hoover Alexander owns Hoover’s Cooking. He’a also President of the Greater Austin Restaurant Association.
His staff can grill, broil and fry food...other than that, Hoover’s had to make changes to what they serve.
“Nothing to drink except for bottled water, bottled sodas, of course the bar, liquor beer and wine. And we're not able to serve things we'll need to rinse today. They cannot be cooked up to temp, above 212 degrees meaning no salads for example. We’ve got veggies that we steam in our steamer that will kill anything because the temperature is higher than 212 degrees,” Hoover said.
At schools as well as Austin’s airport the water fountains are off-limits.
Shoppers are buying stacks of water bottles at grocery stores.
So the question of the day is: how long will this last?
“We don't know yet. Until we can stabilize the water and the treatment systems and the river water quality is of a level we can treat successfully,” Meszaros said.