“I write to let you know that I will be stepping down from my job as the Director of Austin Water,” Meszaros’ letter reads. “While I have loved my job as Director, and I am exceedingly proud of all that my team and I have accomplished over the nearly 15 years I have served as Austin Water’s leader, I am ready to step aside.”
“I take full responsibility for any shortcomings at the Utility this past week.”
City Manager Spencer Cronk informed the city council of Meszaros’ decision and lauded the director, saying, “Whether it was addressing record droughts, guiding our city through historic flooding and other weather events, or determining how best to cope with the emergence of zebra mussels in our lake system, Director Meszaros has always led with a true spirit of transparency and honesty rightfully expected by our Council and the public we serve.”
Shortly before the resignation, Meszaros provided the city with a memorandum detailing the events of the boil notice.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 5, increased turbidity — cloudiness of the water — was detected at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. Eleven hours later, after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated, the city issued a boil notice to the entire city.
The notice was lifted late Tuesday evening.
Only one of the city’s three water treatment plants experienced this issue, but due to the interconnectedness of the water distribution system, the entire city was subject to the warning.
The root cause of the turbidity spike has been identified as an “internal operational issue” at the one plant that resulted in higher liquidity levels of processed lime, a substance used in the sanitization of the water supply.
The report also says that, ultimately, none of Austin’s water was contaminated during the four-day boil notice. The turbidity levels triggered an inflexible regulatory policy, even though the water had not been contaminated.
Essentially, the higher turbidity signals the potential for bacterial contaminants but doesn’t necessarily mean they are present.
This boil notice was different from the previous two, in that the ones in 2018 and 2021 were caused by weather events — a flood during the former and the winter storm for the latter. The recent notice, meanwhile, was caused by an operational error, the exact details of which have not been disclosed.
“A full review of this event has begun to determine the events leading up to the operational error at the Ullrich Treatment Plant and to identify corrective actions needed to prevent this from occurring again,” the memo reads.
Currently, three Austin Water employees are on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. A special city council meeting is set for February 15 to examine the incident.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.