LCRA finishes testing of KXAN zebra mussel water samples

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It took nearly three weeks for the results to come in. The Lower Colorado River Authority finalized a testing report of three tap water samples KXAN investigator Jody Barr collected on Feb. 2. 

The samples were collected for testing after Austin Water officials told the public the water was safe to drink, despite reports of people smelling a dead fish odor in their city water. Officials said the smell came from decaying zebra mussels inside a large water line that had been disconnected from the city’s system for several days. 

The zebra mussels had collected inside the water line and attached themselves to the walls. Water department officials said the mussels were layered about two inches thick.

We paid LCRA $352 to perform all seven tests available. Those tests would have shown whether there were any contaminants in the water that exceeded safe drinking levels established by Texas law and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. LCRA’s laboratory found nothing in the samples above safe drinking water levels, according to the project manager assigned to our testing. 

The testing would also have identified any “solids” in the samples. LCRA’s project manager said there were no positive results from that part of the testing. 

We chose LCRA’s lab after contacting the University of Texas’ Center for Water and the Environment to find a third-party laboratory that did not have a financial connection to Austin Water. UT could not perform the testing for KXAN because the lab there isn’t “certified” for the type of testing needed in this case, the university said. 

Two other private water testing laboratories KXAN contacted also could not perform the testing needed to determine whether the tap water was safe to drink. 

Although LCRA has a financial connection to Austin Water, we had no other choice than to pay LCRA for its services. 

LCRA’s lab performs home tap water testing for the public. The agency provides free residential water testing kits at their Montopolis Drive office, but charges to perform each of the different tests. 

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