AUSTIN (KXAN) — In 2018, a massive flood rolled through Central Texas, prompting boil water notices across Austin and causing the water to look like chocolate milk (not the kind you want to drink).
The City of Austin has installed a solution at one of its treatment facilities to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“The flood in 2018 washed a tremendous amount of silt down the Colorado River, which we picked up in our raw water intakes,” said Shay Ralls Roalson, assistant director of engineering services for Austin Water.
Productions inside Austin’s Water treatment plants couldn’t keep up, and Austin residents were under a boil water notice for a week.
Austin Water held onto some of those samples and launched a study measuring different types of Polymers.
After the study, the city submitted plans and specifications to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for review and approval to use a new polymer. The use of the new polymer was approved by the TCEQ on July 30, 2020.
The polymer the City of Austin landed on helps speed up the process of removing unwanted particles.
“It’s similar to the work we’ve been doing with the zebra mussels to improve resiliency in our systems,” said Roalson.
The system has been installed at Austin’s largest treatment facility, Ullrich.
“Now that we have completed our system at the Ullrich treatment plant, we have also completed design at the other two treatment plants,” Roalson continued.
The next two treatment plants to receive the polymer feed are Davis and Handcox, which will be constructed over the next two years. Materials for temporary polymer feed systems will be on hand at these treatment plants in an effort to keep the water crystal clear.
“The effects of climate change are bringing more unpredictability to our raw water supple in terms of quality and quantity. We are actively working to be prepared,” said Roalson.
The TCEQ says there are more than 350 water treatment plants in Texas, and many of them use a similar system. TCEQ reviews treatments such as the one Austin is using to make sure they are effective and the chemical being used doesn’t counteract the process.