Council defends Utilities Director after TCEQ report

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LAREDO, TX (KGNS) - The water boil notice continues to linger inside the walls of City Hall, especially days after TCEQ released a report on their findings regarding the recent low chlorine levels in one of the city's water plants.

Almost everyone in the council and management disagrees with TCEQ’s report. They say the commission's comments are not accurate since they were meeting their requirements up until the 28th.

"We don't agree that the city failed to issue a city wide water boil notice within 24 hours because all this time we were working with TCEQ from September 20th to September 28th," said Utilities Director Riazul Mia.

He brought up this disagreement to City Council after the release of TCEQ's report on the water boil notice, a sentiment shared by Co-Interim City Manager Robert Eads, based on what he heard on a special meeting of October 2nd.

"Jaime Garza, TCEQ Regional Director, saying that they were working with us during those days,” said George Altgelt, Councilman for district 7. “Stating clearly time after time that we were working with them, so I was kind of surprised that at the end they came back and then backdated all of this to the very beginning to September 21st because that's not what they told the council. That's not what they told you."

Altgelt defended the utilities director as he took a swing at TCEQ.

"I give them very, very little credence with regard to credibility with anything that they say or do, and I will trust this Utilities Department over and over and over way before I would ever give TCEQ the time of day."

Others were also supportive of Riazul, but stressed some changes need to be made.

"I think that if we better our communication in what we make available to the public it should clear some stuff up, and iron out the issues that we continue to hear of."

The Utilities Director took the time to present some short time and longtime goals for the department, which include improving training of staff on responding to such episodes, and expanding public education on chlorine conversion and disinfection

While Federico Reyes, the concerned resident at the epicenter of the low chlorine levels findings, also addressed the council. "I just wanted answers. I want answers."

The council mentioned an environmental consultant firm in Austin is still working on the independent report, and it should be ready within the next few weeks, by January the latest.

Disciplinary action was not addressed at the meeting, but they did mention they will have more about that when the report by that Austin firm is presented.

Also during the meeting, the resident who first sounded the alarm about the water issue, Federico Reyes, was appointed by council Altgelt to the Utilities commission, which has not been able to meet quorum for several months.