Following the 96-inch water main break Feb. 27 that triggered the notice, City of Houston health officials needed to have a testing protocol reviewed and approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a media briefing Feb. 28. The protocol was approved at 8 a.m. Feb. 28 and results from the samples, taken at 48 sites throughout the city, will not be complete for 18 hours, Turner said.
Prior to the TCEQ approval, the city performed preliminary tests at the same tests overnight Feb. 27 that have showed no signs of health hazards, Turner said.
When the state-approved samples are reviewed Saturday morning, Turner said the city is anticipating a positive result, which would allow TCEQ to lift the water-boil notice.
Until the notice is lifted, residents should boil all tap water for at least one minute for personal use, said Dr. David Persse, medical director of the Houston Health Authority. Residents can wash hands using tap water but should follow with hand sanitizer, he said. Residents can also safely bathe but should avoid ingesting the water, Persse said. Those with compromised immune systems should seek alternative methods such as sponge baths with bottled water, he said.
When water pressure drops within the system, it creates the risk of back flow into pipes carrying clean water from pipes carrying hazardous water such as from toilets and industrial sites, Persse said. The health department must monitor for bacteria and viruses, including hepatitis, Persse said. The preliminary test results from overnight however showed no evidence of any health hazards, Turner said.
When tested at midnight and 5 a.m., the water pressure had returned to normal as well, Turner said.
"We have gotten the [preliminary] samples, based on what we’ve seen, we expect to have a clean bill of health in the morning," Turner said.
Area hospital systems have adequate supplies of clean water and to conserve supplies, elective surgeries were postponed, Persse said. All area school districts and university are expected to resume normal operations Monday as well, Turner said.
The water-boil notice does not apply to the Kingwood and Clear Lake areas of Houston, Turner said. Local municipalities such as West University Place, Bellaire and Southside Place are also not included, officials said.