AUSTIN, Texas — About 1 million people in Austin have had their water boiled since Saturday after officials said “mistakes” at a treatment plant led to potentially unsanitary water flowing into homes and businesses. businesses in one of America’s largest and fastest growing cities.

It was the second time in a year that residents of the Texas capital had to boil water before drinking it. Last February, the problems were caused by the collapse of the state’s electrical grid, which led to power outages at Austin’s largest water treatment plant.

But city officials said problems at the Ullrich water treatment plant in northwest Austin over the weekend were unrelated to a winter storm that caused a drop in temperatures in the state at the end of last week.

“This is a very different event than what happened last year,” Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk said at a news conference Sunday.

In a state still traumatized by its electrical systems failing in freezing cold last year, the weekend’s boil water directive has caused frustration and anger across Austin. The advisory is expected to remain in effect for the entire city until at least Tuesday afternoon.

“We have to do a better job,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a television interview Monday. “In our town, we can’t have our water system down like this.”

The mayor said 7,000 cases of bottled water were distributed by the city along with 6,000 gallons of water from tanker trucks. Still, he said, the situation was “incredibly frustrating for everyone in this town”.

Water officials said on Friday they weathered last week’s storm without incident. But on Saturday morning around 8 a.m., Austin Water manager Greg Meszaros was alerted to a spike in “turbidity” – the cloudiness of water flowing out to consumers – at the Ullrich plant. . The factory was immediately shut down.

“They are basically water plants,” Meszaros said at Sunday’s press conference. “And sometimes in factories, you have to stop the assembly line. And that’s where he was not properly stopped and corrected and allowed to continue until the water is over and that’s just not appropriate.

Mr Meszaros said the outage was caused by “mistakes by our operating staff at our Ullrich plant” and said an investigation was continuing. It was not immediately clear when the errors occurred or how many people were responsible.

It is not uncommon for city officials to issue boil water advisories in response to storms or flooding. Less common, and often more long-lasting, are water supply problems that stem from city infrastructure, as has been the case in Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Miss.

Austin residents have reluctantly familiarized themselves with boil water advisories. In addition to last year’s winter storm — which left nearly seven million Texans under a boil water advisory — flooding has created problems for Austin’s water supply. in 2018, resulting in a boil water advisory.

“Austin is the best, but being able to provide clean drinking water shouldn’t be one of the challenges we have to solve,” said Natasha Harper-Madison, a city councilwoman. “It’s more than frustrating to have to experience this kind of incident with such frequency.”

Hilda Salinas, 60, cooked loyalty sofa for her one-year-old grandson on Saturday afternoon when she heard about the boil water advisory. Ms. Salinas remembers shaking her head in defeat and throwing away the soup.

“I didn’t believe it was safe for my grandson to eat,” she said.

Ms. Salinas, a retired U.S. Postal worker who was at a city-run distribution site on Monday to retrieve a case of bottled water, expressed common frustration among residents of Austin, where values real estate is skyrocketing as newcomers pour in.

“I mean the taxes are high, they’re going up, and they can’t regulate the water,” Ms. Salinas said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Paula Mendoza was also among those collecting bottled water from a water facility on Monday – her 61st birthday. Ms Mendoza said she was made redundant from her job at a nonprofit last month and could not afford to buy her own cases.

“Money is tight right now,” she said. She said she had been drinking water from her tap for part of Sunday until a friend called to let her know about the water advisory. “Today is my birthday,” she added. “I can’t get sick.”

Many residents who could afford it had prepared for a possible water outage due to the wintry weather over the past week, by storing water and filling bathtubs.

“Unfortunately, we are starting to figure out how to protect our families,” said Paige Ellis, a councilwoman who called a special council meeting to consider the circumstances at the Ullrich plant. Two other treatment plants in the city were operating normally.

On Monday, local restaurants had to add water issues to their list of problems.

Sharon Mays, 49, owner of a salad and wrap fast food restaurant, spent most of her day boiling water to wash produce and for other fresh food. “We need 12 to 15 gallons of water just to make the lettuce,” she said.

Its difficulties have been compounded by pandemic-related supply chain disruptions; for example, she said, two-ounce cups for dressing had recently become hard to come by. “When you put it on top of the mountain of other stuff, I have no idea what it’s going to do for my business,” she said.

It was the third time Ms Mays had to face a boil water advisory since it opened in 2016. “The fact that I’ve had to do this as many times as I’ve had – why is- what a problem in Austin, Texas?” she said.

Officials said the type of human error that appeared to be driving the current need for residents to boil their water — for two minutes, at a rolling boil — was unusual, if not unprecedented.

“It has never happened before,” Mr. Meszaros said. “It’s not easy. We have many controls in place.

About The Author

Related Posts