Anger is mounting among Houston citizens after the entire city was placed under a boiling water alert Sunday night, with many complaining that they learned of the problem from Twitter.
“The entire city of Houston is under a boiling water alert. I read that Houston residents have not been notified by their local government. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE THIS LITERALLY ON TWITTER.” wrote a Twitter user on Monday.
A note about boiling water means consumers must boil their tap water before drinking it to brush their teeth, make ice, prepare food, clean feeding equipment or give it to their pets, according to water consumer organization CCW.
“The city of Houston has everyone’s email address that has a water bill. We pay them all online. wrote another Twitter user.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a power outage at Houston’s East Water Purification Plant at 10:30 a.m. Sunday caused water pressure to fall below safe levels required by the city.
Six hours after the first outage, the city issued the boil water notice to Houston Public Works’ 2.2 million customers.
Many are now complaining about the city authorities’ delayed response, saying they drank water for hours before learning of the cooking report.
“How and why the hell did Houston officials wait until about 8 p.m. to notify citizens that there was a power outage at a water company that morning?” tweeted journalist Jose de Jesus Ortiz.
“The City of Houston waited until just before 10 p.m. to let us know that we received a water boil notification. I cooked and cleaned all day. I’ve already poisoned myself.” wrote another Twitter user. Other complained that they had heard the message while they were drinking water.
The public is now advised to boil all water used to eat, drink and brush teeth for at least two to three minutes and to avoid using cooling water pipes from refrigerators. Ice from automatic ice machines should also be avoided. Those who cannot boil water should use bottled water instead.
But Houston Water director Yvonne Williams Forrest said the advisory about boiling water was issued out of caution and to comply with agency standards, rather than a real risk of contamination.
In an interview with KHOU 11, Forrest added that the system never completely depressurized, “so there was never a chance of anything getting into our system. They just fell under the regulatory requirements.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to respond to the problems in Houston. He said the state is responding “immediately and is extending support to Houston as they work to bring safe water supplies back online.”
“We have been in contact with Mayor Turner to offer the state’s full support and we are currently working to honor the city’s request for help in expediting the processing of the water sample results. Thank you to TDEM and TCEQ for the quick response to help address this issue,” Abbott added.
“We urge those affected by the boiling water notice to continue to heed the guidance of local officials and take proper precautions when boiling and using water. Together, we will ensure our Texans are supported while the city’s water supply returns.”
The boiling water notification is expected to be lifted Tuesday morning pending reviews of the city’s water samples by TCEQ.