An estimated 10 million Texans woke up without safe drinking water on Monday as state officials tried to speed up the distribution of bottled water and reassure residents whose utility bills rose after a severe winter storm hit the state.
Toby Baker, executive director of the state’s environmental quality commission, said in a press conference Sunday that about 5 million of the 14.9 million people who were told their water was not potable two days ago had lifted notices of boiling water.
The announcements came after days of record low temperatures damaged the state’s water infrastructure.
Texas is bringing more plumbers, who are in great demand to repair damaged water systems, Governor Greg Abbott said Sunday. Homeowners who don’t have insurance can get reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Abbott said.
According to the governor, nearly 3.5 million bottles of water were distributed across the state by helicopter, plane, and truck.
Expansive lines could be seen at distribution locations in some parts of Texas. Vanessa Fuentes, a member of Austin city council, posted a video showing dozens of cars outside a soccer complex south of downtown Austin.
Almost 700 cases were handed in before the 11am event began, and in another location, vehicles were lined up five hours before the distribution began.
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“The effects of this devastating crisis will be felt for days,” she tweeted.
In Houston officials said a boiling water notice dated Wednesday was lifted after tests showed the city’s tap water met legal standards, while about a third of San Antonio’s 1.5 million people under a boiling notice There was water, Baker said.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said nearly 2.1 million bottles of water were distributed across the city on Sunday.
Abbott said customers whose utility bills rose following the blackout in large parts of the state last week – and whose demand rose sharply in Texas’ market-based system – would be protected from “unreasonable” bills.
In some cases, the bills have exceeded $ 10,000.
The breakup for non-payments will be stopped, he said, adding that he met on Saturday with a non-partisan group of lawmakers who had agreed to speed up legislation.
“Texans who have been freezing for days without electricity shouldn’t face skyrocketing energy bills due to a surge in the energy market.” Abbott said.
Texas should get a break from the bitter cold. The gradual warming earlier this week will bring nationwide highs for February as a storm system in the northeast.
President Joe Biden has signed a major catastrophe declaration giving federal funds to boroughs badly hit by last week’s storm. More than 4 million customers have lost electricity and at least 22 people have died in connection with the winter weather.