Houston Chronicle

Houstonian­s no longer must boil water

- By Andrea Leinfelder and Julian Gill andrea.leinfelder@chron.com julian.gill@chron.com

lifted its boil water notice Sunday afternoon, marking another step in the recovery from last week’s harsh winter weather.

Many Houstonian­s are warm, showered and now using sink water to brush their teeth. But this return to normalcy is not yet citywide. Mayor Sylvester Turner, speaking during a news conference at Butler Stadium where bottled water was being distribute­d on Sunday, acknowledg­ed that tens of thousands of people still can’t access water.

“Because so many pipes have burst across our region, even with the boil water notice having been lifted, people still need water,” Turner said. “We want to be mindful that even though for many the situation has improved, for many the situation is still dire. And we don’t want to leave anybody behind.”

The boil water notice was announced Wednesday after arctic weather caused pipes to burst and equipment to fail at water distributi­on facilities, prompting the city’s water pressure to drop below the Texas Commission on Environmen­tal Quality’s required minimum of 20 pounds per square inch. Low pressure increases the risk that contaminan­ts could force their way into pipes.

To lift the boil water notice, Houston’s water system had to rebound to a stable pressure of 35 psi. Then the city had to collect water samples and send them to the Texas Commission on Environmen­tal Quality. Those samples underwent at least 24 hours of laboratory testing to determine if bacteria was growing in the system.

“We have been given the all clear signal,” Turner said, “so you can now stop boiling your water.”

Other Houston-area cities that lifted their boil water orders include Pearland, Bellaire, Katy, Galveston, Bolivar Peninsula, La Porte, League City, Sugar Land, Texas City, Baytown, Tomball, Huntsville, Stafford and Hitchcock.

Carol Haddock, director of Houston Public Works, said the city of Houston’s water system is at full operationa­l pressures.

With power and water restored in Houston, Turner said it’s time to enter the recovery phase. Sending a request through the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Turner has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send licensed plumbers and supplies to the Houston area. He cautioned Houstonian­s to make sure they are only hiring licensed plumbers.

The Houston Police Department is receiving complaints of crooks offering to help homeowners with their plumbing, Police Chief Art Acevedo said during the news conference. He emphasized that Houstonian­s should not give their Social Security number to anyone who asks for it.

As homeowners begin repairing water-damaged homes, Turner said they can haul damaged carpet, drywall and other trash to the curb and then call 311 to have it picked up.

On Monday, he will anHouston nounce details of the Greater Houston 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund designed to help the uninsured recover from the storm. And Turner promised that Houstonian­s would not have to pay exorbitant water bills due to burst pipes. The city will amend those bills.

Haddock said water bills are automatica­lly generated, and the city is in the process of reprogramm­ing its system to not send out exorbitant bills.

“But because they are auto-generated, if you do get one, please do not panic,” Haddock said. “We will reissue a corrected bill. We will make sure that you are not responsibl­e for these high bills due to leaks.”

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