Houston

Houston issues boil water notice after pressure failure at plant

City officials said samples were collected and will be tested. The hope is for the notice to be lifted late Monday or early Tuesday.

Celeste Schurman/Houston Public Media
Customers at Costco off Richmond buying packs of water by the cart on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, after the city of Houston sent out a boil water notice on Sunday night.

4:38 p.m. – Residents preparing for prolonged boil water notice

Customers at Joe V's on Fuqua could be seen loading the maximum number of cases of water, 4, into their carts along with other grocery items on Monday afternoon. At the front of the store, Chris French, the store team leader, was busy filling the store lobby with pallets of 32-packs of bottled water.

"I've got close to—roughly 70 pallets of 32 pack water right there. I've probably got another 30 to 40 in the back," French said, who isn't worried about running low on water.

French notes that he's seeing normal shopping habits at the store.

Customer Lisa Demouchette is hopeful that the water boil notice will end soon but is prepared if it's prolonged.

"Now that they know what's going on with a day or two they should have everything fixed," she said.

  • The Joe V’s on West Fuqua stocked up on water. The store had a product limit of 4 per customer on Monday. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
    The Joe V’s on West Fuqua stocked up on water. The store had a product limit of 4 per customer on Monday. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
  • Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
    Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
  • Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
    Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
  • Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
    Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
  • Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)
    Joe V’s on W Fuqua has stocked up on water. The store has a product limit of 4 per customer. (Photo Credit: Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media)

4:05 p.m. – Houston ISD to remain closed on Tuesday

Houston ISD students will stay home on Tuesday.

“This decision has been made 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,” the district tweeted on Monday afternoon.

More than 330,000 students across four Houston districts did not attend school on Monday. A spokesperson for Aldine ISD said that the district had not made a decision as of 3:30 pm. Spring Branch and Pasadena ISDs have not responded to requests for updates.

Houston ISD staff members are expected to work remotely, according to messages sent to some teachers after 3:30 pm on Monday.

1:30 p.m. – Empty shelves at Montrose H-E-B

Houston Public Media reporter Sara Willa Ernst found an aisle filled with empty shelves where bottled water is usually stocked. She snapped this photo during a midday Monday visit to the busy H-E-B location in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. There are limits on how many containers people can purchase.

12:49 p.m. – Harris County Jail says it is providing water bottles to inmates

As the citywide boil water notice continues to affect millions, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is taking precautions to protect inmates from potential infection, according to HCSO Chief of Staff Jason Spencer. In an email, Spencer said the agency has been "providing people in the jail with bottled water for drinking and personal hygiene."

"We've had no significant issues so far," Spencer said.

This comes as the jail faces continued criticism due to overcrowding. The jail’s daily population has been dangerously close to the facility’s maximum capacity since early July. As of Sunday, there were 9,871 people in the jail, according to the Harris County Jail dashboard.

12:15 p.m. – City says transformer failure cause of problems at plant; Turner asks for review of redundancies

City officials say the failure of two transformers ultimately led to the boil water notice affecting Houston.

At a Monday morning press conference with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Water Director Yvonne Williams Forrest, officials laid out the timeline of what happened and when on Sunday.

The plant lost power at 10:30 a.m. and a transformer for the plant failed. That transformer's backup also failed. Power to the purification plant was restored at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, two hours after it was lost.

Turner said he's asking Houston Public Works to do a review of the system.

Both Turner and Forrest said this boil water notice was different than two previous ones – one triggered by the 2021 winter storm and another caused by a main water line failure.

A total of 16 sensors fell below acceptable water pressure levels during the power outage, officials said. Two of the sensors were under 20 PSI for about a half hour, while 14 others were for just two minutes.

The two also fielded numerous questions about the length of time it took to notify residents about the low water pressure and the announcement of a boil water order Sunday evening.

“Just because the power went out, doesn’t mean the power went out in the system. We had to verify that the pressure drop was real and reach out to TCEQ,” Turner said.

11:44 a.m. – Stores issue limit on waters

Costco on Richmond Ave. in Houston opened about 15 minutes early on Monday, as about 30 customers lined up outside the door before it opened.

The store also put a limit on the amount of packs of water customers can buy: five. Many people walking out of the store were seen with carts that had the maximum amount allowed. According to some Insta-Cart shoppers that Houston Public Media spoke with, water is their number one requested grocery right now.

HEB also limited customers to two packages of water bottles or two one-gallon bottles.

  • Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.  (Photo Credit: Celeste Schurman / Houston Public Media)
    Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022. (Photo Credit: Celeste Schurman / Houston Public Media)
  • Costco issued a limit to five packs of water per customer after a line of customers waited for the store to open to purchase waters on November 28, 2022. The city issued a boil water notice on November 27 after a purification site lost power.  (Photo Credit: Celeste Schurman / Houston Public Media)
    Costco issued a limit to five packs of water per customer after a line of customers waited for the store to open to purchase waters on November 28, 2022. The city issued a boil water notice on November 27 after a purification site lost power. (Photo Credit: Celeste Schurman / Houston Public Media)
  • Costco issued a limit to five packs of water per customer after a line of customers waited for the store to open to purchase waters on November 28, 2022. The city issued a boil water notice on November 27 after a purification site lost power.  (Photo Credit: Celeste Schurman / Houston Public Media)
    Costco issued a limit to five packs of water per customer after a line of customers waited for the store to open to purchase waters on November 28, 2022. The city issued a boil water notice on November 27 after a purification site lost power. (Photo Credit: Celeste Schurman / Houston Public Media)
  • Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
    Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
  • Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
    Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
  • Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
    Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
  • Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.
    Customers purchase packs of water by the cartful at Costco on Richmond Ave. after the city issued a boil water notice on Sunday, November 12, 2022.

Original

A boil water notice was issued for the city of Houston on Sunday evening after the water pressure at a purification plant dropped below acceptable levels.

Officials said a power outage at the East Water Purification Plant on Sunday morning was the cause of the problem. The city said it would send out an update when the water was safe to use. Bellaire and West University Place residents were also asked to follow the order.

The Houston mayor's office said it believes the water is safe, but it was forced to issue the notice due to "regulatory requirements." The earliest the order could be rescinded would be Monday night, but could take until Tuesday morning.

"The @TCEQ has approved the @HouPublicWorks water sampling plan. Workers will begin collecting samples this morning and will do two complete sets to send to the lab for processing," the mayor's office tweeted Monday morning.

Yvonne Williams Forrest, Houston Water Director, said the department was following the rules and told KHOU-TV it didn't believe there was a massive risk.

"Our system maintained pressure, we never lost pressure fully, so there was never an opportunity for anything to enter our system. It just fell below the regulatory environments," she told the station.

Houston ISD closed all schools, offices, facilities Monday due to the boil water notice. Aldine, Pasadena and Spring Branch ISDs are also closed.

The office of Gov. Greg Abbott said it has asked the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to "to deploy necessary resources to support the city."

"We have been in contact with Mayor Turner to offer the full support of the state, and we're currently working to fulfill the city's request for help with rapid turnaround of water sample results," Abbott said in a statement.

The Houston Public Works water system serves an estimated 2.2 million people.

The city is asking water customers:

*Do not drink the water without boiling it first.
*Bring all water to a boil for at least two minutes.
*Let it cool before using.
*Individuals without power to boil water are advised to use bottled water for consumption.

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