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Recent Tests Of Houston’s Drinking Water System Have Failed Requirement Set By TCEQ

Mayor Turner assures nonetheless the supply is safe and it is not necessary to consume boiled or drinking water

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says that City drinking water remains safe.
Photo: Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Twitter feed (@SylvesterTurner)
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (third from the left) says that City drinking water remains safe.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday that the City's drinking water is safe although the tests conducted in the last three months of 2017 didn't meet a requirement set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Turner explained during a press conference the TCEQ's standards establish that if the level of chlorine disinfectant is low at less than 95 percent of tested sites, the City has to notify the public.

Carol Ellinger Haddock, whom the mayor appointed this week as director of the Department of Public Works and Engineering, detailed that the level of residual chlorine is supposed to be between 0.5 and 4 milligrams per liter.

On average, the City conducts the tests at 450 sites and Ellinger Haddock specified that less than 0.5 milligrams of chlorine per liter of water is still enough to kill the bacteria.

The tests conducted in October 2017 showed that the chlorine level was satisfactory at 93 percent of the tested sites.

Tests performed in November 2017 showed worse results, with chlorine level being satisfactory at 87 percent of the tested sites.

Finally, the tests conducted in December 2017, showed that the chlorine levels were satisfactory at almost 94 percent of the tested sites.

Those three readings don't meet the TCEQ's requirement of chlorine levels being appropriate at 95 percent or more of the tested sites.

The mayor emphasized nonetheless that the tests show no problems with the bacteria level in the water and stressed that Houstonians don't need to drink boiled or bottled water.

Turner added the TCEQ said in a letter sent to the City this week that the bacteriological samples are “in compliance” and met “drinking water standards.”

The mayor commented that many of the testing sites with lower chlorine levels are in Houston's northwest sector and said it is possible the construction on Highway 290 is a factor because it entails temporarily shutting off water lines.

Additionally, Turner also noted that the low chlorine levels might be, to a certain extent, a side effect of Hurricane Harvey because they are also more prone to happen when there is standing water.

“When homes, for example, are empty because of flood damage there’s more standing water than usual,” the mayor commented, while assuring the Department of Public Works and Engineering will monitor the situation –in collaboration with a private company— and will increase testing in the northwest section of the city.