Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Full Review of February 2022 City-wide Boil Water Notice Underway

Today (Feb. 15, 2022), Austin Water briefed the Austin City Council following a memo released Friday answering questions about the recent boil water notice. A full review has begun to determine the events leading up to the operational error at the Ullrich Treatment Plant which caused February’s city-wide boil notice. Corrective actions needed to prevent this from occurring again will be identified in the review.

“This event was unacceptable, and we are committed and working to make certain that it will not happen again," said Greg Meszaros, Director of Austin Water.  “We are conducting a thorough investigation to gather all the facts and make sound decisions about the protocols and technology that will prevent this kind of error in the future.”

Initial Actions Underway
  • Meetings have been conducted with plant staff at each water treatment plant (Ullrich Davis and Handcox)
  • Examining process controls protocols
  • Examining training protocols
  • Reviewing alarm, testing and notification procedures for improvements
Implementation and Follow-up

Austin Water has taken immediate steps to increase system redundancies that include increasing the frequency of turbidity audible alarms, automatic notification of supervisors for turbidity exceedances, and allows remote access to monitoring systems for supervisors. Over the next 30 days, Austin Water will be implementing enhanced procedures that will aid in communications between shift changes, as well as the escalation of communications to plant superintendents, management, and executive staff when issues arise. We will also be providing supervision with remote software access to plant monitoring.

As part of the after-action review, Austin Water will evaluate technology that prevents high turbidity water from leaving the filters, automatic external notification systems to management, automatic shutdown of the filtration system when turbidities are exceeded, and additional alarms as improvements and technologies that might have prevented this event.

“Our community must have the full faith and trust in its public water system and the leaders charged with overseeing it and certainly no community should ever be in the position to doubt the safety and reliability of that system," said Spencer Cronk, Austin City Manager.  “As leaders in this organization, we are the stewards of this public resource. We recognize that this incident has diminished the public's trust and we take responsibility for that. We also recognize the immense responsibility of restoring that public trust."

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