UPDATE: Austin Water says it’s seeing big improvements Saturday as the water moves through the distribution system.
AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Water said the smelly water coming out of people's faucets due to zebra mussels has improved.
- Austin water smell improves
- City is cleaning it up
- Smell caused by zebra mussels
Austin Water uses an index to determine the water's odor. On Thursday the scale rated the water at nine, and has since decreased to one.
Although they have seen improvements, they are still flushing the system and adding powder activated carbon to improve the smell.
Austin Water said the smell came from a raw water pipeline at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. That pipeline was offline for repairs and was put back in service two days ago. The city is working with a consultant to find a more permanent solution.
Right now, they are physically removing mussels from intake valves and pipes and also using a short term chemical to retard them.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us. They are in all of the water systems. They are in all three of our plants and they are not going away. That's just one of the things we have to deal with in the future," Greg Meszaros, director of Austin Water said.
John Higley, founder of Environmental Quality Operations, says the smell is the result of decomposition of zebra mussels and the treatment to fix the smell. His team has been in contact with the city to discuss how to prevent this issue in the future.
Scientists are working on a process where they look at genetic material, like DNA and RNA, which will allow them to see what treatment works. If the mussels respond to treatment, they can predict when they will begin to die off, and will better prepare the treatment plant to avoid smells in the future.
Higley is also working on a longer-term solution.
"We are bioengineering a smart drug that's going to produce a micro algae, then that algae becomes fish food for everything else and the zebra and quagga mussels die off, but again, that's an ongoing project. It hasn't been released yet," he said. "Currently, we can tell water resource managers how to better mitigate and once zebra mussels are in their system and we can prevent them from taking hold in the first place."
This issue will likely cost the city millions of dollars in upkeep.