Published: March 14, 2019

    Zebra Mussels Wreak Havoc on Water Quality in Austin, Texas

    Many residents in Austin, Texas, submitted complaints to the city in the first week of February complaining of foul-smelling water. After completing routine water testing Austin Water released an official response that zebra mussels were likely present in a raw water pipeline at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. These invasive mussles are to blame for the current wave of water quality issues in the city.

    What Are Zebra Mussels?

    The zebra mussel is a tiny mollusk that can be transferred by even a tiny amount of water. Zebra mussels were native to large lakes in Russia and the Ukraine, but were accidentally introduced to ecosystems in the United States and have been causing major problems ever since.

    Zebra mussels are an invasive species that spread throughout the Great Lakes region in the 1980s. Now they can be found all across the US. Zebra mussels harm the ecosystem by filtering out important algae that native species need and incapiciating native algae. Water treatment plants and power plants must spend millions of dollars to remove zebra mussels from clogged water intakes.

    Texas Parks and Wildlife confirms that Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake are all fully infested with zebra mussels. A dive team first discovered zebra mussels inside a city water treatment plant intake valve in September. Zebra mussels are also time-consuming and expensive to deal with for boat and property owners — public agencies strongly encourage boat owners to fully clean their boat, trailer and gear every time they venture out on the lake to deter the spread of zebra mussels.

    City officials in Austin have hired specialists to help them combat the influx of zebra mussels in the area’s waterways. The valves and pipes at all three water intake plants will require additional maintenance and upkeep to ensure they are mussel-free.

    How Mussels Affect Your Water

    After the weeklong boil water notice in October citizens are already skeptical of their water quality. Residents of the area told KXAN that their home drinking water “smells like toilet or septic water,” and also that the water “smellls like rotten trash” when they try to shower or brush their teeth, according to one person interviewed.

    Austin Water workers have begun pouring controlled amounts of powdered, activated carbon into the water supply to help with the taste and odor issues that have alarmed so many citizens. This technology is the same we use to filter and purify your home water in our whole house water filter systems. The Granular Activated Carbon media (GAC) in Pelican Water systems will filter chlorine, chloramines, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, industrial solvents and hundreds of other common contaminants.

    According to Rick Coronado, the Assistant Director over Operations for Austin Water, this invasive species and the effects it has on the water is not a temporary issue. In a statement to KXAN he expressed that this is a “new norm” for Austin Water, and treatment efforts to combat the presence of zebra mussels would be ongoing.

    You can’t afford to expose your family to the foul-smelling water and potential other dangerous contaminants. Take your water quality into your own hands by equipping your home with an industry leading water filtration system.