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Austin (Texas) schools remain open despite citywide boil order for water

An inundation of flood water has compromised the city of Austin's water treatment system; about 900,000 residents are affected.

Despite an order directing residents of Austin, Texas, to boil water for drinking, cooking and making ice, the Austin Independent School District held classes on its regular schedule Tuesday.

The district says it decided to remain open based on information from the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center.

The city issued the boil order Monday because an inundation of flood water has compromised its water treatment system.

"Historic flood waters flowing into our water supply lakes contain very high levels of silt that makes it challenging for the water plants to produce the volume of water needed to supply customers at this time," the city says. "The high level of debris, silt and mud requires extended filtration that slows the process of getting treated water in to the system."

"To ensure that water is safe, customers are asked to boil water used for drinking, cooking or ice until further notice. It's important to note that there have been no positive tests for bacterial infiltration of the system at this time."

School campuses will continue to accept donations of sealed, bottled water, Austin officials say.

District leaders say they have taken several precautions to keep students and staff safe:

•Drinking fountains have been covered or closed to prevent use by staff or students.
•Campus staff is providing boiled and bottled water to any students in need.

The food services staff has taken extra precautions to safely feed students and staff.

•Cafeteria menus were adjusted to include hot vegetables, canned fruit and fresh fruits with peels such as orange and bananas.
•No salad bars were available, but baby carrots and precut celery are safe and will continue to be served.
•All water used for cooking, washing produce, washing hands and making ice is being brought to a vigorous boil before use.
•Kitchen staff are working to conserve as much water as possible.

"We encourage everyone to talk to their students about the city’s water situation and about the importance of following the boil water requirements as we work to stay healthy and hydrated," the district says.

The Austin American-Statesman reported earlier Tuesday that the boil-water order in Austin could last 10 to 14 days as the city’s water treatment system tries to restore normal output, according to Travis County chief emergency management coordinator Eric Carter. He said the order is affecting at least 888,000 Austin residents.

Later in the day, Austin Water officials said they think residents will be asked to boil water for only a “handful of days.”

“Much of that estimate, however, depends on variables such as weather and consumption demands,” says Austin Water Director Greg Mezaros.

 

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