News Briefs: Texas Utility Offers to Assist Furloughed Government Workers

Also in this week's sewer and water news, a private contractor is found dead in a holding tank at an Indiana wastewater treatment facility

Austin Energy in Austin, Texas, recently offered to help federal workers affected by the government shutdown pay their utility bills, according to the company’s director of communications, Robert Cullick.

Cullick tells FOX 7 News that Austin Energy has received calls from about 120 furloughed workers who need assistance with bills. “Suddenly we have thousands of people who never expected to be in need are in need because of action that they really had no control over. The bills are just now going out for some of those employees who have not received a paycheck last week so now you've got no paycheck and now that utility bill is coming in.”

The utility says it can postpone collection for up to 30 days, then evaluate whether a customer can qualify for an assistance program. If the shutdown continues, Austin Energy plans to reevaluate customer accounts individually.

Private Contractor Found Dead in Holding Tank

A private contractor hired to test and maintain several wastewater treatment plants was found dead in a holding tank after an apparent drowning at the Metamora Wastewater Treatment Plant in Indiana.

The man, Mickey Lounsbury, reportedly worked alone. His family had filed a missing persons report and deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene after Lounsbury’s vehicle was discovered at the plant.

“This is a tragic loss and our thoughts and condolences go out to the Lounsbury family,” Franklin County Sheriff Peter Cates tells

The death appears to have been accidental, according to authorities. 

Expert Says Overseers Should Have Known Flint's Plant Was a Mess

A water treatment expert who was asked to look at Flint, Michigan’s facility claims regulators at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality who were overseeing it should have noticed problems as soon as they walked into the plant.

Robert Bowcock told a district court judge recently that he could see the plant was a mess in early 2015. “And the reason it was a mess was it was a treatment plant that was seldom used and sat in mothballs 50 weeks out of the year,” he said, according to “It was sort of like grandma’s Chevy — full of spiderwebs, dust and bad oil.”


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