Anyone who gets their tap water from Brazosport Water Authority should discontinue its use immediately, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced late Friday night.
The commission informed the authority of a potential naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba, in the water supply after 9 p.m. Friday.
The water authority said it had been informed of a potential primary amebic meningoencephalitis at 10 p.m. Friday. TCEQ asked the authority to issue a “do not use” advisory for all water it supplies, the statement said.
The cities and agencies that get water from Brazosport Water Authority include Lake Jackson, Freeport, Angleton, Brazoria, Richwood, Oyster Creek, Clute, Rosenberg, Dow Chemical, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Clemens and Wayne Scott units.
Residents of the impacted area are advised to not use tap water for any reason, including bathing, but flushing the toilet is OK, the TCEQ statement said.
Clute crews are working on flushing the city’s system, City Manager CJ Snipes said at about midnight.
The city currency uses about 60 to 70 percent of BWA water and the rest groundwater, but the mix is irrelevant because any contaminant would affect the whole system, he said. The city is capable of shifting the system entirely to groundwater, he said.
“We can, but it’s gonna take two to three days to flush the entire system out before that transition even starts,” Snipes said. “Residents do not need to drink anything or use the tap water for anything other than flushing the toilet until further notice.”
Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba, or single-celled living organism, that can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, according to the CDC.
Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers, according to the CDC.
“In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose,” the CDC website states. “You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.”
Residents were overwhelming the 911 system late Friday, which is not necessary, Snipes said. CDC guidance indicates people cannot become infected by drinking the water, but it can be transferred as an aerosol in the shower, Snipes said. People should only call 911 if symptomatic, he said.
Water authority staff will work with TCEQ as soon as possible, BWA Chief Operator Felix Davis said from the plant in Lake Jackson after 11 p.m. Friday. He did not know whether TCEQ personnel would arrive Friday night or early Saturday morning, but they intend to get water restored as soon as possible, he said.
Lake Jackson City Council will have an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. today, Mayor Bob Sipple said, and they intend to advise residents on accurate information as quickly as possible.
TCEQ should be in the area for testing early this morning, Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said. Lake Jackson also uses a blend of about 50/50 groundwater and BWA water, though it can fluctuate to more BWA water, he said.
Freeport had no indication of length of time it would be under these measures as of 12:20 a.m. Saturday, City Manager Tim Kelty said.
“I would encourage folks to take this very seriously and follow TCEQ’s directive in this regard,” he said.
The do-not-use advisory will remain in place until the water system is flushed and samples indicate that the water is safe to use, TCEQ said on Twitter.
“It is not known at this time how long this may take,” the statement said. “The health and safety of the public water system’s customers is TCEQ’s priority.”
“We will continue to work with the Centers of Disease Control and the Texas Department of State Health Services and TCEQ to ensure the water supply is restored to normal use as quickly as possible,” the BWA statement said. “The Brazosport Water Authority will continue to provide updates to the public as we work to resolve this situation.”