Public Notice required by TCEQ

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The attached letter is going out to Pflugerville homeowners the week of November 4, 2019. Please allow a few days for you to receive your paper copy.

Updated 11/12/2019

What Happened

The violations from TCEQ relate to processes in the water plant, i.e. programming, monitoring and reporting. The water plant treatment reports cannot confirm that we properly filtered for Cryptosporidium. This was further complicated by the discovery that the water filtration membranes at the Surface Water Treatment Plant (SWTP) had been damaged by zebra mussels, which decreased the effectiveness of the water filtration. The City took immediate corrective action to ensure the water meets TCEQ standards. In addition to repairing the damaged filtration membranes, improved monitoring processes are also in place to prevent this from happening in the future. Pflugerville water is safe to drink and residents do not need to find an alternative water source.

Required tests of raw water (Lake Pflugerville) conducted periodically from 2008-2017 are negative for Cryptosporidium. This testing is no longer required by TCEQ. Because the organism can be present at any time, water plant processes are required to meet treatment standards for Cryptosporidium. The violations from TCEQ relate to processes in the water plant, i.e. programming, monitoring and reporting. While the water is safe to drink, the water plant treatment reports cannot confirm that we properly filtered for Cryptosporidium. This was further complicated by the discovery that the water filtration membranes at the Surface Water Treatment Plant (SWTP) had been damaged by zebra mussels, which decreased the effectiveness of the water filtration. The City took immediate corrective action to ensure the water meets TCEQ standards. In addition to repairing the damaged filtration membranes, monitoring processes are also in place to prevent this from happening in the future. 

Timeline

June 2019 - City staff contacted the TCEQ with questions about the reporting forms.

July 23 – The TCEQ provided on-campus training regarding Surface Water Monthly Operating Reports. (SWMOR)

August 15 - Financial, Managerial, Technical (FMT) training was provided onsite and subsequently determined a need for Special Performance Evaluation (SPE).

September 16-18 – A SPE was conducted by the TCEQ. Staff was notified to submit revised SWMORs for the previous 12 months for review for potential violations by October 7.

October 7 - City submitted revised SWMORs.

October 11 - City received emailed Notice of Violations letter from the TCEQ.

Week of October 14- City staff and DCS Engineering met with the TCEQ to discuss technical issues and TCEQ offered assistance to draft the Public Notice.

October 25 - Public Notice sent to printer after multiple reviews by the TCEQ.

November 4 - Public Notice delivered to post office from third-party printer.

November 5 - City released information online in preparation of receipt of Public Notice.

Fact Check 

Myth: My water is only NOW safe to drink.
Fact: TCEQ is our regulatory body. If TCEQ ruled that the water was not safe to drink, the City would have been required to issue a boil water notice.

Myth:  I need to drink bottled water now because my water is not safe to drink.
Fact: Your water is safe to drink and YES the City has put additional safeguards in place to make sure these reporting and treatment issues do not happen again.

Myth:  The City knew since October 2018 and chose not to tell me.
Fact: The City received notification from the TCEQ in October 2019 that the reporting violations and surface water treatment technique violations went back to October 2018.

Myth: The City held information.
Fact: The City worked with the TCEQ starting on October 11, 2019 to create the Public Notice notification letter. The printer was able to complete the printing by November 4, at which time we directed them to mail the letters out immediately. The City also gave the information to the local print media in an effort to inform the public. The TCEQ deadline for the letter was November 9. 

Myth: The City exposed me to a parasite for a year.
Fact: The City does not have the data to confirm filtration of Cryptosporidium, if it was ever present.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my water safe to drink?

Absolutely! Pflugerville water is safe to drink. You do not need to find another water source and the issues have been corrected.

Why are two months not included in the time period reported in my public notice?

Software errors caused us to not be able to show we were in compliance on our reports. As a result during several months, there was the potential for Cryptosporidium to get through our membranes undetected and into the water. However during December 2018 and April 2019, an audit of reporting indicates this potential did not exist.

What did the City do to fix the issue?

The City hired industry experts, DCS Engineering, to perform an overall treatment process analysis, enhance staff training, and implement facility improvements. Our facility computer programming was analyzed, and programs were upgraded or reprogrammed. City staff has been thoroughly retrained on equipment, program upgrades and reconfigurations, and water sampling protocols. The City also hired an additional third-party consultant to perform an overall assessment of all of our water and wastewater facilities and procedures. To make sure the issue never occurs again, the City is expanding and updating its standard operating procedures to better monitor issues that may arise during the surface water treatment process. Moving forward, the City will continue to work with TCEQ and industry experts to meet or exceed water quality standards. We want to rebuild your trust.

How will this affect me?

Your water is safe to drink, and you do not need to find another water supply. The City’s failure to meet the TCEQ’s surface water treatment technique requirements is the Tier 2 non-acute violation, which is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as one that does not pose an immediate risk to human health. However, it does require a Public Notice. Reporting errors are a Tier 3 violation that is addressed in our Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs).

Why was I not notified sooner? When did the City know about this issue?

See timeline above.

What is Cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that occurs in natural waterway and can cause symptoms including diarrhea, cramps, and headaches.  

What are filtration membranes? 

Filtration membranes are the primary means of removing Cryptosporidium from the water. Some of the membranes were damaged due to the presence of zebra mussels, which impacted the effectiveness of the membranes. The Manufacturer (Suez) came out to inspect the membranes and the necessary repairs were made. A mitigation system for the surface water treatment plant to address zebra mussels is in design.

What are zebra mussels?

Zebra mussels are small, invasive freshwater mollusks that can be dangerous to water structures, such as water filtration membranes, and native ecosystems. 

Who was notified about the issue? 

The City wishes to be transparent with our community. The week of November 4, 2019, all 19,432 households that are Pflugerville water customers received a Public Notice that outlines the issue, as well as the immediate actions taken by the City to correct it.  The information was sent to the Pflugerville Pflag and Community Impact Newspaper to help ensure as many citizens receive the information as possible. The City posted this website www.pflugervilletx.gov/water and linked to it from the website homepage prominently to provide a resource for residents. The City posted on the City Facebook page and Twitter to notify residents of the Public Notice.

What actions have been taken to prevent this from happening again? 

The City hired industry experts (DCS Engineering) to perform an overall treatment process analysis, enhance staff training, and implement facility improvements. An additional third-party consultant was hired to do an overall assessment of all water and wastewater facilities and procedures. The City will continue to work with TCEQ and industry experts to meet or exceed water quality standards. The City is expanding and updating its standard operating procedures (SOP) to better monitor issues that arise in water treatment process.

Is this why the lake was low?

No, the City entered Stage 3 water restrictions because water usage in August and September was extremely high during the dry summer months. Water usage was at 12.8 million gallons a day and we were using water more quickly than the lake was refilling. The City went to Stage 3 water restrictions and daily use went to 6.8 million gallons a day and the lake has been refilling. The depth was reduced to 28 ft earlier this summer but is now back up to 33 feet and rising. We are now in voluntary Stage 2 water restrictions. The City requests that you water based on your watering day. 

The TCEQ Public Notice addresses a tier 2 non acute violation which is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as one that is not immediately harmful to public health. As identified in the letter in conjunction with the TCEQ, the water is safe to drink and you do not need to find another water supply. If you are concerned, we refer you to your physician or regular medical health provider.

For additional information, please call City Communications at 512-990-6115.