NEW: Austin city manager confirms review of water operations in wake of contamination and flooding issues

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk speaks at the podium during last week's boil water notice.

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk speaks at the podium during last week's boil water notice.

Austin Water, the city’s public water utility, will undergo a comprehensive review of its operations and actions leading up to last week’s unprecedented citywide boil water notice, according to Austin’s city manager Spencer Cronk.

Following weeks of extended rainfall and flooding in the Central Texas region, Austin Water’s water treatment plants became clogged by the extraordinary amounts of sediment that flushed into the Colorado River, Austin’s sole source of water. The subsequent inefficiency of the city’s water treatment process led to contaminants remaining in the water and forced officials to issue Austin’s first citywide boil water notice between Oct. 22 and 28.

In a memo issued to the mayor and city council on Sunday, Cronk said on top of continued maintenance, clean up and operational checks, Austin Water will complete a pair of comprehensive reviews that look at necessary next steps and reflect on steps that need to be corrected before another similar emergency occurs.

Cronk said all city and county departments, hospitals, schools and non-profits would participate in the review.

“This is a comprehensive review that will include internal communications, decision-making, resource deployment, emergency procurement, staff coordination and other areas,” he said.

According to the memo, similar reviews were issued following destructive floods in 2013 and 2015. However, Austin Water will conduct its own review, with help from the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of its handling of the water emergency.

“[Austin Water] will report out its findings and provide recommendations to improve drinking water treatment systems resiliency,” Cronk said in the memo. “Special emphasis will be placed on identifying action steps that can be taken in the very short term to strengthen the drinking water treatment systems response to raw water upset events of this nature.”
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