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A costumer loads her vehicle with bottles of water at an H-E-B store Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Editor’s note: This article is available free of charge for all readers as part of the Denton Record-Chronicle’s continued coverage of the ongoing weather and power crisis. To support critical journalism such as this, please consider a digital subscription.

For the next 48 hours, Denton residents must now bring their water to a rolling boil for about two minutes before consuming it after city officials issued a boil-water notice Wednesday evening.

Denton joins several North Texas cities that have issued boil-water notices following the extreme winter weather. About 7 million Texans are currently under boil-water notices, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Wednesday afternoon.

Bringing water to a rolling boil for about two minutes will kill off any harmful bacteria that can seep into the water supply due to low pressure. Ryan Adams, a spokesperson for the city of Denton, said the boil-water notice is expected to last a minimum of 48 hours.

“Residents should not drink water without boiling it first,” a news release states. “Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for two minutes, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation until further notice. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.”

City officials are still investigating to figure out why the water pressure got so low. According to the release, the water pressure fell to levels below 20 pounds per square inch — the accepted minimum level — at several locations throughout Denton’s water distribution system.

Water pressure must remain high in order to keep it safe. If there’s low water pressure, there’s a small chance bacteria can seep into the water and contaminate it. Adams said the pressure must be above 20 PSI before the city can rescind the notice.

Once the city’s water pressure reaches that threshold, he said they still have to test it to make sure it’s safe to drink. The release says testing is expected to take at least 24 hours.

Tuesday night, city officials issued a CodeRED alert asking residents to conserve their water by not allowing faucets to drip — a common practice during extremely cold weather to prevent pipes from bursting. Although the city must now adhere to boil-water guidelines, Adams said it’s still important to conserve water by not allowing faucets to drip.

Adams said there are a few measures residents can take to prevent their pipes from bursting as they conserve water.

The first is to find your main water valve and shut it off if a pipe is frozen. He said residents can typically find the valve in their garage or where their water heaters may be.

“Shutting off the valve cuts the water off before it goes through the pipes in the house,” he said.

Residents can fill buckets with water for use and then shut off their valves, or keep the water off until they know they need a lot for things such as washing the dishes or showering.

Rather than letting the faucets drip, he said residents can open their cabinet doors to expose the pipes to the warmth in the house — however little it may be — and wrap them in any spare blankets, clothes and fabric to keep them from freezing.

Lastly, if residents feel like they need to let the water drip, he said they can place buckets under the faucet to not let that water go to waste.

The Denton Fire Department has responded to a colossal amount of calls over the last few days compared to normal due to the winter weather, and a majority have been related to water pipes, a department spokesperson said.

The Fire Department, which responds to emergency medical calls on top of fire calls, worked through about 350 calls Tuesday — a 700% increase from the department’s normal call volume, said Battalion Chief David Boots.

“The main bulk of calls have been burst water pipes and automatic alarms, [broken] water pipes and systems, power outages affecting sprinkler systems,” Boots said.

Boots said they haven’t yet had any reports of possible carbon monoxide poisoning, but not every report for incidents they’ve responded to has been completed yet as they’ve experienced internet outages. As Texans struggle to stay warm, officials around the state have reminded people not to operate gasoline-powered generators, outdoor grills or cars indoors.

Adams said they don’t yet have an estimate on when they will rescind the boil-water notice, but will notify residents of any changes via the CodeRED alert system and through social media.

Once the notice is lifted, residents should run all cold water faucets in homes for at least one minute, flush automatic ice makers and make three batches to discard and run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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