HOUSTON – More than 14 million Texans still do not have safe drinking water in their homes after a powerful winter storm burst pipes and knocked out power across the state this week.
Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the number of the state’s 7,000 public water systems affected by the winter storm has increased from Friday to 1,445, but the population affected by those water systems has dropped slightly to 14.3 million. He said about 156,000 homes have no water service at all, which is down from 352,000 reported Friday.
According to Baker, the challenge for many of the systems is finding labs to process the 24-hour tests that are required before a boil water notice can be lifted. He said the state has established a hotline to assist officials with locating an open lab. He said there are 79 labs across Texas that will be working through the weekend to process the tests.
Chief Nim Kidd, of the Texas Department of Emergency Management, said about 3 million bottles of water will be distributed by the end of Saturday, with another 6.9 million having been ordered or received. Kidd said the state has also ordered 250,000 meals-ready-to-eat to be distributed with another 5 million meals on the way.
Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, of the Texas Military Department, said both National Guard and Air Force aircraft are being used to fly supplies across the state. Norris said that in some cases, Guard members are being used to help transport those supplies from airfields to distribution sites. The North Carolina National Guard is also sending aircraft to help with the mission, Norris said.
Kidd said only 77 of the state’s 254 counties are part of the federal disaster declaration at this time because damage assessments are needed in order to ensure the remaining counties meet the threshold to qualify for federal assistance.