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Top Subject of Interest: Boil Water Notices

Find out what circumstances warrant that public water systems issue boil water notices to customers, where and how they are required to provide the notices, and when they may be lifted or rescinded.

When a public water system (PWS) issues a Boil Water Notice (BWN) to their customers, it indicates the water in the distribution system may be unsafe for consumption or may pose an acute health risk. A BWN is intended to reduce the possibility of waterborne illnesses resulting from consuming water which may contain harmful microbes.

It is important that customers of any water system that has issued a BWN to not drink the water without first boiling it as directed by the water provider.

When is a BWN issued?

  • When a violation poses an acute health threat to the customers of the PWS 30 TAC, subchapter F, Section 290.122(a)
    • E. coli: If a PWS exceeds the Microbial E. coli Maximum Contaminant Level (EMCL) and receives a violation [30 TAC 290.109(b)(1)(A-D)] . An EMCL violation can occur when:
      • Collects a sample that is total coliform positive and any of the required repeat samples are positive for E. coli.
      • Collects a sample that is E. coli positive and any of the required repeat samples positive for either total coliform or E. coli.
      • Fails to collect all required repeat samples after an E. coli positive routine sample.
      • Fails to test for E. coli when any repeat samples test positive for total coliform.
    • Turbidity: High turbidity levels indicate a severe failure in filtration and possibly other treatment processes at the plant [30 TAC 290.46(q)(4) ].
      • a conventional water treatment plant has a finished water (combined filter effluent) turbidity level above 5.0 Nephelometric Turbidity Unit, or;
      • a plant with membrane filters has a finished water turbidity level of above 1.0 NTU (for systems that treat surface water or groundwater under the direct influence of surface water).
    • Groundwater systems that experience high turbidity should contact TCEQ as soon as possible to determine if there is a threat to public health and if a BWN is necessary.
  • Any event where conditions at a PWS are such that public health protection is compromised or potentially compromised [30 TAC 290.46(q) ]
    • Low pressure (i.e., below 20 pounds per square inch)
    • Water outages
    • Disinfectant residual levels below the required minimum (i.e., 0.2 mg/L free and 0.5 mg/L total)
    • Line breaks or repairs (construction)
    • Storage problems
    • Well problems
    • Mechanical equipment problems
    • Power outages
    • Treatment facility problems
    • Natural disasters

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What is a proper BWN notice?

The BWN must be issued as soon as possible, but in no case later than 24 hours after the violation or condition occurs. The PWS must use the mandatory language for issuing a BWN and use one or more of the following methods of delivery.

Delivery options by type of water system

System Type Delivery Options
  • Furnish copy to Radio/TV in the service area
  • Publication in a local, daily newspaper
  • Direct delivery or continuous posting
  • Electronic delivery or alert systems (e.g. reverse 911)
  • Direct delivery or continuous posting
  • Electronic delivery or alert systems (e.g. reverse 911)

If continuous posting is used, it must remain in place for as long as the violation exists or seven days, whichever is longer. If demographics indicate a need for multilingual notification, the system is required to issue the notice in all appropriate languages.

The system must notify the TCEQ within 24 hours of issuing a BWN and provide the notice language documentation to the TCEQ within 10 days.

The BWN must include:

    • PWS ID / Name
    • Date BWN was issued
    • Reason BWN was issued
    • Required language from the BWN templates in 30 TAC 290.47(c) .
    • PWS contact name(s) and direct contact phone number(s). The TCEQ must be able to reach a system individual who is aware of the situation and can discuss the details with our staff. Customers should also be provided with a water system phone number for their questions.

      The PWS must verify that it has returned to normal operating conditions after the problem has been fixed and bacteriological samples come back negative for any bacterial indicator.

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When is a notice lifted?

To rescind/lift the BWN, the PWS must have:

      • Corrected the condition or determined that the water does not pose an acute health risk
      • Flushed and disinfectant residuals are consistently above regulatory minimums in the affected area or entire distribution system
      • Returned to normal operating parameters (power restored, required pressure, no excessive turbidity, and at the required minimum disinfectant residual levels at all parts of the distribution system)
      • Collected bacteriological samples marked as special and have obtained negative coliform results. After the above has been accomplished, the system must issue the rescind/lift notice in the same manner as the BWN and include the following:
      • PWS ID / PWS Name
      • Date rescinded
      • Date BWN issued
      • The problem has been resolved and the water is now safe to drink without boiling
      • Required language from the BWN Rescinded template in 30 TAC 290.47(c) (3)

The system must notify the TCEQ within 24 hours of rescinding a BWN and provide a copy of the BWN, the rescind notice, and their certificates of delivery to the TCEQ within 10 days.

For more information or to obtain a copy of the BWN templates please see the Public Notice to Boil Water webpage.

What should customers on a Boil Water Notice do?

Water for drinking or other human consumption should be boiled and cooled prior to use. The water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes.

Tips for boiling water:

      • Fill a pot with water.
      • Heat the water until bubbles come from the bottom of the pot to the top.
      • Once the water reaches a rolling boil, let it boil for 2 minutes.
      • Turn off the heat source and let the water cool
      • Pour the water into a clean container with a cover for storage.

Suggestions for different types of water use:

      • Preparing and cooking food
        • Wash all fruits and vegetables with boiled water that has cooled or with bottled water.
        • Bring water to a rolling boil for 2 minutes before adding food to cook.
        • Use boiled water when preparing drinks, such as coffee, tea, and lemonade
        • Wash food preparation surfaces with boiled water.
      • Feeding babies and using formula
        • Use ready-to-use baby formula, if possible.
        • Prepare powdered or concentrated baby formula with bottled water. Use boiled water if you do not have bottled water. Disinfect water for baby formula if you cannot boil your water.
        • Wash and sterilize bottles and nipples before use.
        • If you cannot sterilize bottles, try to use single-serve, ready-to-feed bottles.
      • Ice making
        • Do not use ice from ice trays, ice dispensers, or ice makers.
        • Throw out all ice made with tap water.
        • Make new ice with boiled or bottled water.
      • Bathing and showering
        • Be careful not to swallow any water when bathing or showering.
        • Use caution when bathing babies and young children. Consider giving them a sponge bath to reduce the chance of them swallowing water.
      • Brushing teeth
        • Brush teeth with boiled or bottled water. Do not use untreated tap water.
      • Washing dishes
        • Household dishwashers generally are safe to use if the water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 150 degrees or if the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle.
        • To wash dishes by hand:
          • Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water.
          • In a separate basin, add 1 teaspoon of unscented household liquid bleach for each gallon of warm water.
          • Soak the rinsed dishes in the water for at least one minute.
          • Let the dishes air dry completely.
      • Laundry
        • It is safe to do laundry as usual.
      • Pets
        • Pets can get some of the same diseases as people. It is a good idea to give them boiled water that has been cooled too.
      • Water filters
        • Boil tap water even if it is filtered. Most kitchen and other household water filters typically do not remove bacteria or viruses.

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