14M Texans still affected by water issues, Abbott said distribution a top priority

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott said state officials are working to help provide clean water to Texans as well as necessary resources like food and bottled water to the state.

Abbott provided an update on Texas’ response to this week’s winter weather event which left millions of Texans with no power for days during record-breaking cold temperatures on Friday afternoon.

Abbott said there are four main priorities that the state is focusing on.

1. Power restoration

He said about 165,000 households are still without power right now. He attributed this to downed power lines or power companies needing to manually reconnect those households to the system. Abbott said he’s observed about 20,000 restorations from local power companies each hour.

2. Water restoration

Toby Baker with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said more than 1,000 local water utilities are affected, which equates to about 14 million Texans dealing with water issues.

TCEQ is working on setting up a phone bank to connect local water utilities with labs to test their water, in order to expedite the cancelation of boil water notices.

Utilities looking for help with lab testing can visit the TCEQ website for more information.

Abbott said they are also working to set up mobile lab testing to help with this effort, as well as partnering with the state of Arkansas to use its labs.

Abbott said one of the biggest issues Texans will face in the coming days is busted water pipes. He’s hoping for confirmation that President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration that would allow Texans to apply for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help address damage to their homes.

He said right now, you need to be on the phone with your insurance company, if you have one.

Additionally, the state is working with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners in order to license more plumbers so their response can be larger. As of the press conference, more than 320 plumbers have renewed their licenses. They are hoping to add more out-of-state plumbers to the response as well.

3. Food, bottled water shipments

Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said 1.7 million bottles of water have been delivered to the state. C-130s and C-17s helped with the shipments to Corpus Christie and Galveston.

On Friday, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Abilene are expected to get bottled water.

Kidd said they’re also prioritizing sending water and additional ambulances to hospitals.

Abbott said they’re allowing for all off-road diesel to be used on Texas roads. They have also waived some requirements already for truck drivers. They are working to get shipments to Texas grocery stores as soon as possible.

Additionally, Abbott said he requested a USDA disaster declaration for Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy Counties. This would make federal assistance including emergency loans to agricultural producers who have suffered losses. So far, these are the only counties that have requested to be on the list, but more counties could be added.

Kidd also explained 396 warming centers have opened in the state of Texas, and the Texas Department of State Health Services is hoping to deliver oxygen to hospitals and homes for those who need it.

4. Fuel availability

Abbott said they are hoping to get refineries back up and running to provide fuel, as they were affected by the winter weather. He’s issued a number of waivers to expedite this process, he said.

Report damage to your home or business

TDEM has set up a survey for Texans to report damage to their homes and/or business. Kidd said this will help them get a better idea of what needs to be done in the state. You can access the form online here.

For those who want to help other Texans, Abbott suggested heading over to feedingtexas.org or redcross.org.

Background

Earlier in the week, Abbott called on the state legislature to investigate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. He called ERCOT a complete failure.

During the governor’s update to the state on Thursday, he said most of those remaining issues are because of issues caused by the storm, and not because of any generation issues stemming from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ grid management.

During a virtual press conference from ERCOT on Friday, the council said, “We just got the notice from our control room that we have left in the last stage of emergency operations. So we are completely back to normal operations as about.”

Now, the biggest issue impacting Texans is water. On Thursday, a total of 725 have issued boil water notices, affecting 13 million Texans, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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