To boil or not to boil? DEQ warns more boil orders are likely coming as pipes begin to thaw

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality announced it leaves the decision of a precautionary boil order up to individual cities and their water systems. However, the DEQ tells KFOR even if you don’t have an advisory, you should boil your water if it has been affected in any way.

Several metro residents are still waiting for their water to come back on.

“I’m telling you I will probably be hitting my knees, kissing the ground when I have water,” Kristian Hammock said.

Hammock and her husband have been without water for 72 hours.

“Today was the first day he could take a shower,” Hammock said.

Thursday afternoon, City of Oklahoma City officials encouraged Oklahomans to stop dripping interior faucets to let the system catch up.

“Overnight we had almost three times the water usage that we would normally expect,” Mayor David Holt said. “We are having crisis situations in our local hospitals for the past 48 hours.”

Utilities Director Chris Browning revealed there were 19 main breaks within the past 24 hours in Oklahoma City, including one at OU Health.

INTEGRIS Hospital confirmed to KFOR it had to divert vaccine appointments to a different location due to water pressure problems at the Portland campus.

“We are going to find more leaks,” DEQ Director Shellie Chard said. “We are going to have additional issues with equipment.”

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality warned Thursday, that with pipes thawing, orders to boil water as a precaution will come from city leaders. Oklahoma City received a precautionary, voluntary boil order advisory Thursday night.

DEQ Director Shellie Chard tells KFOR in an interview Thursday it’s still better to be safe.

“It is our recommendation that if the water has been off due to a system outage, that you boil your water to a roiling boil for one minute,” Chard said.

Many systems throughout the state are experiencing issues related to water loss, and DEQ anticipates that once temperatures rise above freezing and frozen pipes begin to thaw, many more systems and customers will be affected. It is likely that DEQ’s emergency storm response will continue for several weeks.

When a water system experiences extremely low or no water pressure, DEQ recommends a precautionary boil advisory to ensure that people have safe water for drinking, cooking, handwashing and bathing.

“Unfortunately, we expect the number of precautionary boil advisories and, potentially, mandatory boil orders to increase over the next few days. In order to assist Oklahoma’s drinking water systems, the State Environmental Laboratory will be operating seven days a week to analyze additional samples to ensure safe water,” said Shellie Chard, DEQ’s Water Quality Division Director.

If someone has extremely low water pressure or total water loss, it is important that they notify their water service provider as quickly as possible and follow these recommendations:

  • Once the water comes back on, flush the water for five minutes or until fresh, clear water comes out of the tap.
  • Boil the water at a hard, rolling boil for at least one minute before consumption, drinking, use in food preparation (including baby formula), brushing teeth, making ice, wound care, and bathing infants who may ingest the water, or use another drinking water source such as bottled water until the tap water is safe to drink again.
  • It is recommended to continue boiling the water (or use bottled water) for at least 72 hours or until your water system says the water is safe to drink again, whichever comes later.
  • DEQ officials encourages residents with water issues to call the 24 Hour DEQ Hotline at 1-800-522-0206 for questions.

DEQ sent KFOR a list of cities placed under a boil advisory so far. The list includes:

  • Afton
  • Atoka RWD #1
  • Avant
  • Barnsdall
  • Blackwell
  • Bryan County RWD #5
  • Cement
  • Choctaw Estates
  • Delaware
  • Durant
  • Hobart
  • Holdenville
  • Johnston RWD #4
  • Kiowa
  • Konawa
  • McAlester
  • Okfuskee RWD #3
  • Oklahoma City
  • Pittsburg RWD #5, #6, #7, #9, #11, #16
  • Perry
  • Sasakwa
  • Seminole #3
  • Shidler
  • Walters
  • Wakita

The DEQ can issue a mandatory boil order, if necessary.

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