Boil water notices can be put in place for a variety of reasons, including power outages, low water, storage problems, and water main breaks.
“Out of about 7,000 public drinking water systems, 797 of those water systems are reporting some sort of issue. Currently, about 725 are under a boil notice, and that affects about 13 million Texans,” Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Executive Director Toby Baker said at a press conference on Thursday.
In North Texas, water main breaks in Fort Worth have contributed to an extension of the boil water notice to the western parts of the city and three more cities: Aledo, White Settlement, and Westover Hills.
A boil water notice was lifted today for the northern sections of the city after the required tests were provided to TCEQ. It has been in place since Tuesday.
“There are 134 confirmed un-repaired breaks with an additional 155 suspected breaks. To put that in perspective, there were 651 main breaks all of last year,” City Councilman Brian Byrd explained on his Facebook page.
Other Tarrant County cities like Colleyville, who are supplied by the Trinity River Authority (TRA), may be forced to enact a boil water notice for a different reason.
Colleyville was notified by TRA on February 18 that the shipment of chlorine used to treat water is behind schedule.
“If the shipment does not arrive by Saturday, February 20, we will be mandated to issue a boil order for Colleyville,” the city’s Facebook page reported.
TRA also provides water to Bedford, Colleyville, and Euless, along with portions of Grapevine and North Richland Hills.
TCEQ regulates water systems in Texas and creates rules and regulations governing water treatment and the tests that must be performed on drinking water delivered to residents.
Water systems must return to full pressure and pass certain quality tests required by TCEQ before the boil water notice may be lifted.
As Fort Worth’s notice states, “Children, seniors, and persons with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to harmful bacteria.”
The notice instructs residents on the safe boiling procedure. “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 water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes.”
As an alternative to using chlorine, the Trinity River Authority plans to use an alternate ozone treatment, Colleyville’s Facebook page explained.
“This ozone treatment ensures water safety but does not provide testing that is in compliance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requirements. Thus, out of an abundance of caution, a boil order will be mandated that will take effect Saturday and likely last 4 to 5 days.”
According to a report issued in 2012 by Texas Tech University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “Use of Ozone (O3) as a drinking water disinfectant has been common in Europe since the 20th century. Its use as a disinfectant in the US has been limited; however, as the negative effects of chlorine are becoming more evident the use of ozone is increasing in popularity.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing supplies to help Texas residents during the emergency. According to the FEMA website, it has 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets, and 225,000 meals staged in Fort Worth, Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott made a request for a federal emergency declaration on Saturday in anticipation of the storm.
On Sunday, President Biden issued the declaration, which authorizes FEMA to provide emergency protective measures and Direct Federal Assistance in all 254 counties in Texas.