Houston Water Contaminants
Houston water is treated to high standards and filtered at three surface water plants and 40 groundwater treatment plants. It is safe to drink and use for cooking and bathing but it can contain low levels of contaminants. Houston Water
Some contaminants are naturally occurring, and others are added to the water during treatment. These can include a variety of pollutants that come from agriculture, urban runoff, and industry. Some of them are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while others are not.
Chromium 6 and Lead
The city of Houston has been fined several times in recent years for failing to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum drinking water quality requirements, and the city’s tap water has a long history of elevated concentrations of the toxic metal chromium 6. Levels of this chemical have been found to be 35 times higher than what is considered safe by the EPA, which means people could be at risk for cancer from drinking Houston’s water.
According to the EWG, arsenic has been detected at levels 528 times higher than what is recommended for good health in Houston’s drinking water. This is due to the fact that a number of different sources of arsenic are used to produce drinking water in the city.
Chlorine-based disinfectants are used to treat the water, but these can react with organic matter and release chlorine-based chemicals known as dissolved organic compounds (DOCs). These chemicals can cause bladder cancer and other health problems, but they are not well-regulated by the EPA.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has identified five tick-borne disease outbreaks in the Houston area this year. These infections are spread through contaminated drinking water and have the potential to be fatal.
A boil water notice is a precautionary measure that is usually issued after an unexpected condition that could lead to biological contamination of public drinking water. A boil water notice usually remains in effect for at least two hours before it is lifted, but the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is able to rescind it if tests show the water is sanitary and meets all legal standards.
When a boil water notice is lifted, it will be accompanied by a notification from public water system officials that the water is now safe for consumption and that it can be used for hygienic purposes. The city will provide a link to a website that can be used for information on how to use boiled water, including tips on how to boil and cool it down, before it is consumed or disposed of.
Houston water is sourced from the San Jacinto River, which has a long history of pollution. It is then pumped into underground aquifers to provide drinking water for the city’s 2.2 million residents and businesses.
The city’s main water system has a large number of pumps, ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 horsepower, that is capable of delivering millions of gallons of water per day. It is managed by the city’s Water Treatment Operations division.