Millions of Texans remained without safe drinking water Sunday as state officials sought to ramp up bottled water distribution and calm residents who’ve seen spiking electricity bills in the aftermath of a severe winter storm that left the state battered.
Boil water notices were lifted for roughly 5 million of the 14.9 million people who were told their water wasn’t safe to drink two days ago, said Toby Baker, executive director of the state Commission on Environmental Quality, in a news conference Sunday.
The notices were issued after days of record-low temperatures damaged the state’s water infrastructure.
Nearly 3.5 million bottles of water had been distributed by helicopter, airplane and truck across the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday.
The announcement came as sprawling lines could be seen at distribution sites in some parts of Texas. Vanessa Fuentes, a city councilwoman in Austin, posted a video showing dozens of cars outside a soccer complex south of downtown Austin.
Nearly 700 cases were given out before the event even began at 11 a.m., she said, and at another site, cars began lining up five hours before distribution started.
“The impact from this devastating crisis will be felt for days,” she tweeted.
In Houston, officials said a boil water notice that had been place since Wednesday was lifted after testing found the city’s tap water met regulatory standards, while in San Antonio, roughly a third of the city’s 1.5 million people remained under a boil water order, Baker said.
Abbott said customers who saw their electricity rates soar after huge swaths of the state lost power last week — and demand surged in Texas’ market-based system — would be shielded from “unreasonable” bills.
In some cases, those bills have topped $10,000.
Disconnections over non-payments will be halted, he said, adding that he met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Saturday who agreed to fast-track legislation.
President Joe Biden has signed a major disaster declaration making federal funding available to counties hit hard by last week’s storm. More than 4 million customers lost power, and at least 22 people have died in connection with the state’s winter weather.