Health & Science

Why do you need to boil your water under Houston’s boil water notice?

The City of Houston advised residents late Sunday night to boil all water for drinking, cooking and bathing after a water purification plant lost power.

Sara Willa Ernst
HEB shelves holding water were empty on Monday afternoon in Monday. This comes after Houston residents were advised to use bottled water or boil water for drinking, washing and bathing.

The City of Houston is advising residents to boil all water or use bottled water after a purification plant lost power Sunday morning. This includes water used for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and brushing teeth.

The official recommendation is to allow the water to reach a rolling boil for two to three minutes, before letting it cool off before consuming.

Boil water notice is a precaution taken by city and state officials as they conduct testing to see whether or not water from the tap is safe to consume without boiling beforehand. There has not yet been any confirmation that the water has been contaminated by bacteria or viruses.

"From what I understand, we don’t yet know that our water source has been contaminated," said Stacey Rubin Rose, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. "But because the system went down, there’s the potential that it’s becoming contaminated."

The notice could be rescinded by late Monday or Tuesday at the earliest, according to remarks from an official press conference this morning.

The people at highest risk are Houstonians that are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer patients. Drinking contaminated water could have E. Coli, Salmonella or other infectious diseases.

People who consumed tap water yesterday before the notice went into effect should keep an eye out for diarrhea, fever and nausea, Rose said.

"I don’t think folks should be overly concerned if they showered or drank a glass of water last night before they found out about the advisory," Rose said. "It’s more of a preventative move — our system went down, it could be contaminated, so let’s all be cautious."

Jack Williams contributed to this report.

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