Thursday, May 9, 2019

Austin, Texas has had problems with contaminated water in the past seven months due to heavy rain falls. On October 22, the city of Austin issued a week-long boil water notice after heavy rains washed sentiment which overloaded the water treatment plant. This was unprecedented in an American municipal supply. More recently, on February 7th, the intake pipes from Lake Travis were clogged with zebra muscles which produced a foul odor of dead fish which required extensive flushing of water mains.

On May 3rd, 2019 heavy rainfall caused a sanitary sewer to leak into the Boggy Creek in East Austin which flows into the Colorado River. The estimated amount of sewage that flowed out of a manhole cover was over 100,000 gallons. The city released a mandatory press release for leaks of this magnitude six days later and stated the water quality will not be affected, as this leak occurred downstream of the water intake. The Texas Commission Environmental Quality (TCEQ) was notified so they can access how this leak affects water quality in communities that are downstream of the leak.

On the same day as the press release, May 9th, an East Austin resident has noticed a sharp petroleum odor similar to pesticides or herbicides. He also found that his two cats were refusing to drink the tap water, even if filtered. One cat, who had been accidentally exposed repeatedly to an organophosphate pesticide in the past, had recurring episodes of eating and drinking, then vomiting blood.

He researched more and found an extremely toxic herbicide called paraquat was discovered in the Austin water supply in 2015 at 4.5 ppb, 450 times the national average. However, since this EU banned pesticide (made by Chevron) does not have a safety limit established, the water utility has no obligation to test or report it.

He had first posted on Nextdoor.com on September 3rd, 2018 regarding a chemical taste and smell that he thought to be a pesticide or herbicide. Multiple residents confirmed that they detected an odor. Around that time, there had been heavy rainfalls washing sentiment in the lower Colorado River. The City of Austin gets its water supply from the 862-mile long Colorado River that extends northeast of Austin and originates in Lubbock, however, the watershed extends a further 130 miles in New Mexico. It runs through the largest and oldest oil field in the United States, called the Permian Basin, that uses fracking to produce oil and gas and also releases brine into the water supply.

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