Houston boil water order resulted from ground trips at power plants

Charly Edsitty Image
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Houston boil water order resulted from ground trips at power plants
Over 2.3 million people are being affected by the notice that's expected to last until Tuesday. Mayor Turner said outages at power plants prompted the order. He provided a timeline of what happened after the power went out.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A boil water notice has been issued for the City of Houston's main water system after a water treatment plant experienced a power outage Sunday morning. City officials say it's going to be several more hours before the problem gets resolved.

At a 10:30 a.m. press conference on Monday, Mayor Sylvester Turner said it may take until Tuesday morning at the latest for the notice to be lifted.

On Sunday at 10:30 a.m., the water pressure dropped below the city's required minimum of 20 PSI due to a power outage at the East Water Purification Plant, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Over 2.3 million people are said to be impacted by this notice, which was sent out six hours after the initial outage.

Houston Water Director Yvonne Williams Forrest said the city's pressure system was never at zero, just below the regulatory limit. That pressure is important because it prevents anything from infiltrating the water system.

This is a timeline, according to Mayor Turner, of what happened after the power went out.

  • 10:30 a.m.: East water purification plants 1 and 2 lose power
  • Plant 3 loses power, 14 sensors below 20 PSI for less than 2 minutes, 2 sensors below 20 PSI for 30 minutes, 5 sensors never fell below 20 PSI
  • 12:15 p.m.: Power restored to plants 1 and 2
  • 12:30 p.m.: Power restored to plant 3
  • 3:30 p.m.: All sensors back to 35 PSI

Turner said that backup generators were not turned on amid the notice because of the power failure at the plants.

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner provided updates on water testing and exactly what happened to trigger the boil notice.

The concern over the water pressure is that when it dips below a certain point, that's when contaminants could be introduced.

But, the timeline of this issue has left many people questioning why it took so long for the notice to be issued.

Turner said the pressure didn't instantly drop when power was lost. He said officials were monitoring closely for any changes and decided to issue the boil water notice out of abundance of caution.

"This is not an instantaneous automatic notice. Just because the power went out, doesn't mean the power went out in the system. We had to verify that the pressure drop was real and reach out to TCEQ. There are a number of steps to take before issuing a boil water notice," Forrest said.

What happens next? City officials said they are testing the water across the city, collecting samples that will be submitted to the state. They are now at a City of Houston lab and must be observed and tested.

These samples have to sit for 18 hours to see if anything grows. The hope is that there will be an all clear by 3 a.m. Tuesday. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has authority to lift the notice.

RELATED: Schools announce closures due to massive boil water notice

If you get your water from the City of Houston, you are being urged to boil tap water for at least two minutes before consumption. That includes if you're making coffee.

If you are instructed to follow a boil water notice, use these tips:

  • Boil all water used for food, drinking, and brushing your teeth
  • Boil the water for at least 2-3 minutes
  • Do not use chilled water lines from on the refrigerators
  • Do not use ice from an automated ice machine
  • Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to deploy necessary resources to support the City of Houston after it announced the boil water notice.

    "The State of Texas is immediately responding and deploying support to Houston as they work to get a safe supply of water back online," Abbott said. "We have been in contact with Mayor Turner to offer the full support of the state, and we're currently working to fulfill the city's request for help with rapid turnaround of water sample results. I thank TDEM and TCEQ for swiftly responding to help address this issue. We urge those that the boil water notice affects to continue heeding the guidance of local officials and take adequate precautions when boiling and using water. Together, we will ensure our fellow Texans are supported while the city's water supply returns."

    To see if you are in the impacted area, view the map pictured below

    Click this link to open the map in a full screen window.

    Turner said the City of Kingwood and those serviced by Clear Lake Water Authority are not impacted by Houston's boil water notice.

    If you're experiencing water pressure issues or have any questions concerning the matter, call 311 or email waterquality@houstontx.gov.

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