Water boil order issued for more than 2 million in Houston

Nov 28, 2022, 6:27 AM | Updated: 4:45 pm
John Beezley, of Bonham, buys cases of water after learning that a boil water notice was issued for...

John Beezley, of Bonham, buys cases of water after learning that a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at Walmart on S. Post Oak Road in Houston. Beezley just arrived in town with his wife, who is undergoing treatment starting tomorrow at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where they are staying in a camping trailer. They turned on the television after settling in and saw that a boil water notice had been issued. Beezley decided to go out immediately fearing that by tomorrow people would be buying up all of the available water. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

(Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — More than 2 million people in the Houston area were urged to boil their tap water Monday after a power outage at a purification plant prompted the mayor to initiate a review of what went wrong.

The boil order notice tells customers in the nation’s fourth-largest city to boil water before it’s used for cooking, bathing or drinking. Multiple Houston-area public and private schools, as well as some local colleges, were closed Monday as a result of the notice, while others made adjustments to provide affected campuses with bottled water and sanitizer.

Houston Independent School District officials said in a Monday afternoon statement that closures would continue through Tuesday due to “the logistical challenges caused by the notice.”

“Those challenges prevent the district from being able to provide meals for its students and ensure safe water is available for students and staff,” Houston ISD officials said in a statement.

The notice was issued Sunday, hours after two transformers failed, causing power outages at the water plant, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference Monday. There was no indication the water system had been contaminated.

Water quality testing was underway, Turner said. He said he expects the notice to be lifted by early Tuesday at the latest, once the state’s environmental agency gives an all-clear after analyzing test results.

“We are optimistic the results will come back clean,” Turner said.

According to Turner, the city issued a notice, which affects all of Houston and multiple adjacent areas, in an “abundance of caution” after the two transformers — a main one and its backup– “uniquely and coincidentally” failed. The problem affected the plant’s ability to treat water and pump water into the transmission system, resulting in low water pressure.

Because the issue was within the plant’s system, backup power generators would not have made a difference, Turner said. Since the transformers were down, they couldn’t transmit power to the plant.

The power system at the water plant undergoes regular maintenance, Turner said, but he did not give a timeline for how often. The mayor said he has ordered a diagnostic review of the system to understand how this was possible and how it can be prevented.

Sixteen sensors marked dips under the minimum pressure levels required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — 14 of them for only 2 minutes and two of them for nearly 30 minutes, Turner said.

Typically, there’s enough pressure for water to flow out of leaky pipes. When pressure is lost, however, contamination like bacteria sitting near pipes can be sucked into the system, creating a health risk.

Reliable electricity is a top priority for any water system that must move vast amounts of heavy water through the treatment plant and to people, said George Hawkins who ran Washington DC’s water provider for about 8 years.

“The issue I feared the most was power loss,” he said. Like Houston, Hawkins said an electric failure once forced part of Washington DC to temporarily boil its water.

Officials later conducted a review to ensure there were enough redundancies in the power supply to keep safe water flowing during electric grid outages and major storms.

After a water pressure loss, potentially contaminated water is typically flushed out of pipes and faucets. If tests for contamination are negative, the boil water notice can be lifted, said Hawkins, who now runs Moonshot Missions, a nonprofit focused on improving water services in disadvantaged areas.

Tony Crawford said he hurried to buy water after he heard about the boil notice, as he loaded three cases of bottled water into his vehicle outside a Houston Walmart.

“I have pets, so I decided to come up here and get water,” Crawford said. “It’s never been a water issue for me until today.”

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who represents parts of Houston, helped distribute water at a flu vaccination site in partnership with a local wellness center, providing water to everyone who received a shot.

The National Association of Christian Churches set up a separate water giveaway, with a limit of one pack of water per household.

Turner defended the decision to warn residents about the water quality several hours after the issue first occurred and apologized for the disruptions to businesses, schools and elective surgeries. He said the dip in pressure did not automatically trigger a water boil notice, but a decision was made to issue one based on the data once the city consulted with and was instructed to do so by TCEQ.

The city will also review how residents were informed of the notice to boil water, Turner said.

Water infrastructure and quality has been a prominent issue in cities large and small throughout the U.S., including Baltimore; Honolulu; Jackson, Mississippi; and Flint, Michigan.

___

Coronado reported from Austin, Texas. Michael Phillis in St. Louis contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s full coverage of water treatment: https://apnews.com/hub/water-treatment

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Strikes, protests hit France in round 2 of pension battle

PARIS (AP) — French labor leaders hope to bring more than 1 million demonstrators again into the streets Tuesday in the latest clash of wills with the government over its plans to push back France’s retirement age. For both sides, the nationwide strikes and protests are an important test. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government says […]
3 hours ago
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...
Associated Press

Global shares fall in muted trading ahead of Fed meeting

TOKYO (AP) — Global shares declined in muted trading on Tuesday as investors awaited decisions on interest rates and updates on corporate earnings reports from around the world. The Federal Reserve’s next decision on interest rates, expected Wednesday, will provide insight into whether the U.S. central bank will further ease its aggressive stance on fighting […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering its final 747 jumbo jet. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One […]
1 day ago
FILE - A worker loads boxes of goods from a truck outside a wholesale clothing mall in Beijing on T...
Associated Press

Chinese factory activity rebounds, adding to recovery signs

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese factory activity rebounded in January from three months of contraction, adding to signs the world’s second-largest economy might be recovering from a painful slump, an official survey showed Tuesday. A monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics agency and an industry group rose to 50.1 on a 100-point scale […]
1 day ago
Visitors try out Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Book2 at its shop in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan....
Associated Press

Samsung’s profit plummets amid global economic woes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics said Tuesday its profit for the last quarter plummeted nearly 70% as a weak global economy depressed demand for its consumer electronics products and computer memory chips. The company’s operating profit of 4.3 trillion won ($3.5 billion) for the three months through December fell 69% from a year […]
1 day ago
A trishaw driver wades through a crowded street at the frozen Houhai Lake in Beijing, Monday, Jan. ...
Associated Press

IMF upgrades outlook for the global economy in 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — The outlook for the global economy is growing slightly brighter as China eases its zero-COVID policies and the world shows surprising resilience in the face of high inflation, elevated interest rates and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. That’s the view of the International Monetary Fund, which now expects the world economy to […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Water boil order issued for more than 2 million in Houston