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Austin Boil Water Notice update

The TCEQ is posting updates to keep the public informed about the drinking water situation in Austin.

Sunday,  Oct 28, 2018 - Boil Water Notice Lifted

The city of Austin demonstrated that the system had sufficient chlorine and pressure throughout the distribution system and at storage tanks that are in use during this event demonstrating that the state's rescind criteria has been met. Therefore, the TCEQ agrees with the city that the boil water order can be rescinded.

The boil water notice rescind criteria in TCEQ's rules [Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code Chapter 290.46(q)(6)(B)] states that affected area(s) have been flushed until a minimum of 0.2mg/L free or 0.5mg/L total chlorine is present and consistently maintained throughout the distribution system.

Because water continued to be used for non-drinking purposes during the BWN period, no additional flushing is needed. 

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, 4:55 p.m. – Update

The TCEQ is onsite providing both technical and operational assistance to the city of Austin as it continues efforts to stabilize its water treatment plants after recent flood conditions created issues with turbidity.

Requirements for lifting the boil water notice are contingent upon conditions improving at the water treatment plants. Once the water treatment process has been stabilized, the TCEQ will work closely with the city of Austin to verify that its water quality is protective of public health before allowing the boil water notice to be rescinded. 

Reasons for boil water notices include such causes as line breaks, low-pressure events, positive bacteriological samples, low disinfectant residuals, water outages, elevated turbidity, and scheduled maintenance events. Sometimes, water systems have to issue boil water notices because of natural disasters beyond their control, such as a hurricane, a flood, or a loss of electricity due to a tornado or straight-line winds.

 There are currently forty-nine Texas public water systems serving a population of 100,000 or more. Of these, 14 have issued a boil water notice since 2010. On average, the typical boil water notice lasts five to six days each. The most common reason for issuing a boil water notice is a loss of pressure in a distribution system.

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, 11:15 a.m. – Mandatory notice background

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, Austin Water reported an increase in turbidity levels which triggered an official mandatory boil water notice, as required by state and federal law. The mandatory boil water notice to customers was issued on Oct. 24, and is available at the TCEQ.

The TCEQ remains onsite with the city of Austin staff to provide both technical and operational assistance at the city’s Emergency Operations Center. This allows TCEQ technical and engineering staff to provide real-time access to the city’s data and to monitor the operations while working through filtration issues due to excess turbidity (suspended particles in the water, a measure of water quality). The TCEQ will continue to work closely with the city of Austin. The TCEQ also continues to provide support at the State Operations Center 24/7.

The city of Austin first reported to the TCEQ on Oct. 21 that it was experiencing operational challenges with meeting drinking water production levels needed to keep up with the water usage demands across Austin. The COA said the challenges were due to high turbidity and changes in water quality/chemistry from recent rainfall and flooding coming into the city’s source water. Treating high turbidity raw water has significantly reduced the production (output) of treated water. 

In response to these conditions, the city of Austin enacted emergency water restrictions to lower the water use and issued a precautionary boil water notice on Oct. 22, until water treatment is stabilized.  The city is providing regular updates on their website: the TCEQ.

A BWN is issued to ensure destruction of harmful bacteria and other microbes prior to consumption due to the possibility or potential of contamination of the water system. BWNs can often result from events such as loss of pressure, treatment disruptions causing high turbidity, power outages and floods.