Local leaders, residents react to Pflugerville's failure to meet water quality standards

Following a Nov. 5 announcement that the city of Pflugerville failed to meet minimum water treatment standards for the better part of a year, Pflugerville City Council members and residents are expressing concerns.

The city failed to meet the minimum requirements set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to remove cryptosporidium, a parasite, during water treatment processes from October 2018 through September 2019, excluding December 2018 and April 2019. The parasite, according to the city's notice, can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramping and headaches.

"It’s unacceptable," Council Member Mike Heath said in a Nov. 6 interview with Community Impact Newspaper. "That’s the responsibility of the city—to provide safe drinking water, wastewater, trash, good roads and police. Absolutely unacceptable."

Terri Toledo, communications director for the city, said city staff contacted the TCEQ in September regarding reporting that did not look accurate, leading to an audit and subsequent treatment violation notice. Toledo said city staff was not aware of reporting violations when they began to occur in October 2018.

"The city was not aware in October of 2018 of an issue," Toledo said. "We became recently aware of an issue, and from rerunning our reports and going back in time, it goes back to October of 2018. So it’s not that we were aware of this a year ago, because we were not."

Toledo added that while the violation warranted the TCEQ violation, the city's water is safe to drink and does not pose any immediate risks or public health concerns.

Pflugerville Council Member Rudy Metayer issued a statement to Community Impact Newspaper on Nov. 5, following the notice's release, where he said he shared in residents' "outrage." Metayer said that he and his fellow council members will continue to be transparent with residents as the issue moves forward.

"As a council, the safety and well-being of our citizens is our number one priority," Metayer said. "We will continue to investigate the matter, be open and honest with the public, change and implement the necessary procedures to make sure such a situation will not happen again, and earn the trust that each of you have placed in us.”

TCEQ Media Relations Specialist Andrew Keese confirmed in an email to Community Impact Newspaper that TCEQ issued treatment technique violations to the city of Pflugerville on Oct. 11 "for failing to provide adequate surface water treatment for cryptosporidium." Keese also added that no reported cases of cryptosporidiosis, a disease related to exposure to cryptosporidium, had been reported in the Pflugerville area during the effected months.

Matthew Rodriguez, a Pflugerville resident, said he was disappointed that the quality of the city's water was being overlooked, and he hopes the city pays more attention to its water sources moving forward.

"I can only hope this is an eye opener to our city officials to hold our facilities accountable and audit them to ensure the public's safety," Rodriguez said. "This is a near miss to an actual health concern and needs to be taken seriously by our community and government officials."