Houston's water boil notice lifted after officials declare tap water safe for use

Houston schools are closed on Tuesday.

November 29, 2022, 9:24 AM

A boil water notice was lifted for more than 2 million Houston residents on Tuesday after a power outage affected a local water treatment plant, according to Houston Public Works.

Water quality testing submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed the tap water has met all regulatory standards and is safe for human consumption.

PHOTO: John Beezley, of Bonham, loads several cases of water after learning that a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston, Nov. 27, 2022.
John Beezley, of Bonham, loads several cases of water after learning that a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston, Nov. 27, 2022.
Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP

Officials told residents to flush their system by running cold-water faucets for at least one minute, cleaning automatic ice makers by making and discarding several batches of ice and running water softeners through a regeneration cycle.

The water pressure dropped below the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's required minimum of 20 PSI during a power outage at the East Water Purification Plant on Sunday, according to the agency.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the water was safe and the boil order was done to comply with regulations. He tweeted that the city submitted its plan to TCEQ to lift the notice Sunday night.

"Water samples will subsequently follow and hopefully we will get the all clear from TCEQ. The city has to wait 24 hours from that point before the boil water notice is suspended," Turner said.

PHOTO: The East Water Purification Plant after a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston, Nov. 28, 2022, in Houston.
The East Water Purification Plant after a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston, Nov. 28, 2022, in Houston.
Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP

The incident had a ripple effect on other city services and organizations.

Houston schools were closed Monday and Tuesday because of the order.

"We will closely monitor the situation and provide additional updates about operations for Wednesday," Houston's Independent School District tweeted Monday afternoon.

PHOTO: People shop for bottled water after a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston, Nov. 27, 2022.
People shop for bottled water after a boil water notice was issued for the entire city of Houston, Nov. 27, 2022.
Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP

Yvonne Williams Forrest, Houston's water director, told ABC affiliate KTRK Sunday night the city's pressure system was below the regulatory limit.

"There are a number of steps in the regulatory process before you issue a boil water notice and we didn't want to unnecessarily alert the city if we did not have to issue a boil water notice," she told KTRK.

Turner said the power outage was caused by two transformers that malfunctioned. Power was restored Monday around 12:15 p.m. local time, he said.

PHOTO: In an aerial view, the East Water Purification Plant is seen on Nov. 28, 2022 in Galena Park, outside Houston, Texas.
In an aerial view, the East Water Purification Plant is seen on Nov. 28, 2022 in Galena Park, outside Houston, Texas. A boil water notice has been issued for the city of Houston as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has reported a drop in water pressure from the plant after it experienced a power outage Sunday morning. Classes have been cancelled at schools across the city, and the boil water notice is expected to last through Tuesday morning.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The mayor said 16 sensors fell below 20 PSI for two minutes, triggering the emergency, and full water pressure was restored above 20 PSI at 14 of the 16 locations.

Turner said the incident will be investigated and he apologized to the city, schools and parents for the cancellations.

"I can't tell you why it failed, stuff does happen and it's unfortunate," he said.

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