When will Austin Water lift the boil water notice?

Austin City Council Mayor Pro-Tem Alison Alter is calling for an external audit of Austin Water.

Saturday at approximately 8 a.m. increased turbidity, or cloudiness, was detected at Austin Water’s Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. An Austin Water spokesperson said "Austin Water staff have narrowed down the cause to an internal operational issue," meaning human error.

Austin Water issued a boil water notice to residents at approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

FOX 7 Austin asked an Austin Water spokesperson why a boil water notice was not issued for nearly 12 hours. They replied "Boil water notices must be issued within 24 hours of the incident according to TCEQ regulations, which consider exposure to potential contaminants."

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, no contaminants had been detected according to Austin Water. 

They state the boil is "precautionary." FOX 7 Austin sought clarity on notification protocol from TCEQ Tuesday, their spokesperson sent back this response:

A Boil Water Notice (BWN) is issued as a precaution or notification to protect consumers from drinking water that may have been contaminated with disease causing organisms (also called pathogens). BWNs are typically issued when an unexpected condition has caused a potential for biological contamination of potable drinking water in a public water system.

The Public Water System shall issue a BWN as soon as possible, but in no case later than 24 hours of meeting any of the criteria listed below as specified by 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) 290.46(q)(1). 

BWNs are instituted by PWWs as specified by 30 TAC 290.46(q) in the event of: 

- low distribution pressures (below 20 pounds per square inch (psi)), 
- water outages, 
- microbiological samples found to contain E. coli, 
- failure to maintain adequate disinfectant residuals, 
- elevated finished surface water turbidities, 
- or other conditions which indicate that the potability of the drinking water supply has been compromised.

This is the third boil water notice issued by Austin Water in four years.

"At this point, we don't know what we don't know, and we need to get some independent eyes looking at Austin Water to help us understand the nature of the pattern that we've seen. It’s not lost on me this is our third boil notice in four years," said Alter.

Five members of the dais have expressed support for an external audit. Alter said she hopes to have a resolution on council's agenda for their meeting next Thursday.

"Why does this keep happening in Austin? You know, we're a big city, and it seems like we would be a lot more advanced or actually pay more attention," Austinite Dee Sullivan told FOX 7 Austin at a city-run potable water distribution site.

City sources tell FOX 7 Austin the lab testing the water did not confirm it received necessary samples until approximately midnight Tuesday. Adding Austin Water officials had hoped to lift the boil water notice Tuesday afternoon or early evening.

As of 4 p.m., the lab had yet to provide the TCEQ with its results. The TCEQ must give Austin Water the green light to lift the boil water notice. 

The water utility company had said it had expected to lift the notice sometime between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday but wrote in a tweet around 9 p.m. that it was still waiting on test results.

"We share our entire community’s frustration & regret that any of this is necessary. Austin Water crews are fully invested in lifting the boil water notice as soon as possible," the tweet said. "We're waiting on all test results to be reviewed by TCEQ."

Water boil notice impacting Austin restaurants, schools
Water crisis continues in Austin as medical experts issue their own warning
Citywide precautionary boil water notice likely to be lifted by Tuesday

SUBSCRIBE: Daily Newsletter | YouTube
FOLLOW: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter