Houston closes schools as city remains under boil water notice


All of Houston’s public schools were closed on Monday, as millions of residents were advised to boil their drinking water in the aftermath of a power outage at one of the city’s purification plants. 

Houston officials issued a formal boil water notice on Sunday, when the outage caused water pressure at the East Water Purification Plant — which feeds into the city’s main water system, serving about 2.2 million customers — to drop below regulators’ required minimum of 20 PSI. Lower water pressure at the purification plant increases the risks of bacteria and other harmful microbes entering drinking water supplies. 

Although Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that water was likely safe to use again, the city’s testing protocols mean its boil water notice will remain in effect until at least Tuesday.

The Houston Independent School District announced building closures shortly after the notice was issued on Sunday evening, and said it would continue to monitor the situation and provide updates about reopening later on Monday.

“Due to the Boil Water Notice issued by the City of Houston late this evening, all Houston ISD schools, offices, and facilities will be closed Monday, Nov. 28, 2022,” the district wrote on Twitter. “#HISD will closely monitor the situation and provide additional updates regarding operations tomorrow.”

The city issued a news release on Sunday alerting residents to a pressure drop at the purification plant. It recommended that everyone living in the affected area refrain from drinking tap water without first bringing it to a “vigorous rolling boil” and then allowing it to continue to boil for another two minutes. People should follow this protocol before using the water to brush their teeth, or to wash their hands and face, the city said, noting that people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to harmful bacteria that could be present in the water supply.

“To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and ice making should be boiled and cooled prior to use for drinking water or human consumption purposes,” the boil water notice stated. “In lieu of boiling, individuals may purchase bottled water or obtain water from some other suitable source for drinking water or human consumption purposes.”

Late on Sunday night, Mayor Turner said that city officials believed the water was safe to use, but regulatory requirements mandate that a boil water notice remains in effect until the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has completed repeat testing on water samples, and confirmed they are not contaminated.

“We believe the water is safe but based on regulatory requirements when pressure drops below 20 psi we are obligated to issue a boil water notice. The City is submitting its plan to TCEQ for approval tonight,” the mayor tweeted. “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. The earliest would be tomorrow night or very early Tuesday morning.”

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