Update: City officials will provide an update on Killeen's drinking water situation during Tuesday's Killeen City Council meeting at City Hall, 101 N. College St. The meeting begins at 5 p.m.
Residents are invited to the City Council meeting where the water issue is on the agenda for discussion. Residents can also speak during the meeting during the "Citizens Comments" portion, which is near the beginning of the meeting. The city update on the water issue follows the citizen comment period.
For those unable to attend, the meeting can be viewed online at livestream: http://www.killeentexas.gov/281/Council-Live-Streaming.
A citywide boil-order was still in effect Monday, nearly a week after water officials discovered low chlorine levels in Killeen’s drinking water. And there’s still no word on when it might be lifted.
City, state and water district officials were still working Monday to identify the problem and flush the city’s water infrastructure in an effort meet state standards and end the boil-water order, which is impacting nearly all Killeen homes, schools and businesses — anyone who gets a Killeen water bill or taps into the city’s drinking water system.
The water is safe to bath with as long as it is not consumed, city officials said. It should be boiled for at least two minutes prior to drinking to kill any potential bacteria in the water. A small amount of chlorine is typically added to drinking water by water treatment plants in order to kill bacteria that may be harmful.
It’s unclear why testing last Tuesday showed low chlorine levels in Killeen’s water supply. A boil-water order has been in place since. The order can’t be lifted until the levels are good and at least 24 hours of testing show the water is sustaining a good level of chlorine residuals.
Killeen’s Executive Director of Public Works Jeffery Reynolds mentioned those “residuals” in a video update to the public Monday afternoon on the city’s YouTube channel.
“We’ve seen the residuals coming in from WCID at all of our tank locations where we take in the water,” Reynolds said. “The residuals are going up to a reasonable rate. We’re beginning to push that water out to the system. You’re going to see guys out flushing, our Public Works staff will be flushing hydrants and pulling samples. As soon as we can get this boil water notice lifted, after testing is done, we will do so, but we will only do that when we know that the water is safe.”
State officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have been working with Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 (WCID-1), Killeen officials and surrounding cities throughout the weekend on a chlorine conversion in the WCID water system. TCEQ officials were still on site Monday offering assistance with the process.
Officials are hoping a different chlorine formula and flushing the system will fix the problem.
Adding to the mystery is the fact that WCID-1 treats the drinking water for Killeen and several other cities from the same water plant, but only Killeen is under a boil-water order.
In Monday’s news release, city officials pointed out: “The water system issues are not isolated to the City of Killeen, as WCID provides wholesale water service to the cities of Belton, Copperas Cove, Killeen, Harker Heights, Nolanville and the Fort Hood Military Reservation.”
However, only Killeen’s chlorine levels reached an amount low enough to induce a boil-water notice.
WCID-1 officials have said the water samples at their treatment plants — at lakes Belton and Stillhouse Hollow — have been fine.
Copperas Cove city officials sent a news release Monday, reporting the chlorine conversion process is now being seen there, and chlorine levels are staying normal.
“The City of Copperas Cove’s water system is beginning to see signs of Bell County WCID #1’s Free Chlorine Conversion based on frequent tests of the water to determine chlorine levels,” the release said. “As necessary to speed up the conversion process, City crews will be flushing water from storage tanks and system lines throughout town for the foreseeable future. Please note that this is normal activity and is necessary to minimize the length of time that City customers will experience the aesthetic effects (odor, taste and possible discoloration of water) associated with the conversion.”
In Killeen, city “crews worked 24/7 this past weekend and we are awaiting TCEQ guidance on how to proceed,” Killeen’s news release said. “TCEQ had hoped to provide a better timeline by the end of (Monday), although the four-person team does not have all information needed yet, so the City is on standby. This is an intricate system and process, therefore the team wants to have all data before releasing targeted dates and times.”
Meanwhile, online at least, frustrations have boiled over as Killeen residents questioned how and why this happened.
“Regardless if we are still using the water for everything but consumption, it’s still a big inconvenience! If its not 100% functional then we shouldn’t have to pay 100% of the bill. And this happens way too often. Get it together city of Killeen!,” Karen Fay wrote on the city’s Facebook page on Sunday.
Killeen water bills are in the crosshairs for many residents after they noticed an increase on their bills this month due annual increases in the water and sewer rate, and to street maintenance fees that are collected on the monthly water bills.
Earlier this year, the Killeen City Council voted to increase street maintenance fees from $1.70 to $10 per month in an effort to provide more money to repair city roads in Killeen. The City Council also approved a measure to increase the water and sewer rate, as well as commercial solid waste rates for the 2022 fiscal year. The increase in fees and rates began Oct. 1.
“The city doesn’t do their basic jobs, but requests us to pay even more for our suffering that they caused. Time to think,” Misong Thompson said on the city’s Facebook page Sunday.
Some residents, like Myria Myria, thanked officials for providing daily updates.
“Thank Yall for the Update,” she said after Monday’s update on the city’s Facebook.
But most comments seem to grow increasingly frustrated at the situation.
“Lost faith in Killeen leadership,” Rhonda Robertson said on the city’s Facebook page.
Some businesses — and their employees — have been hit especially hard. The Herald has seen at least two — Dutch Bros. Coffee on Stan Schlueter Loop and Sonic Drive-in on South W.S. Young Drive — temporarily close down. Both had posted signs they closed because of the boil-water order. After a call to Dutch Bros. Monday, the company — which specializes in cold coffee and other drinks — said it can’t open the Killeen location until the boil-water order is lifted.
Countless other restaurants have posted signs that say they have limited drink items available because of it.
“Do we have an estimate yet on when we can drink the water again? We have lots of local businesses shutting down,” Chris Colvin said the city’s Facebook page Monday.
No one seems to know the answer.
“The City of Killeen issued the city-wide BWN (boil-water notice) after our daily and quarterly testing found chlorine residuals below TCEQ guidelines in certain samples. Monthly testing also occurs regularly,” according to the city’s news release Monday. “Once the recent samples are sent to a lab, the 24-hour testing will begin. Per State law, the BWN notice cannot be lifted until the lab finds the samples acceptable.”
For general federal guidelines on how residents should handle boil-water advisories, city officials referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s site: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/drinking/drinking-water-advisories/boil-water-advisory.html
“As we enter into the sixth day of the boil water notice, please be reminded that the health and safety of our citizens is always a priority,” according to the city on Monday.
The city is offering bottled water for those who do not have the ability to boil their own water. “Please contact us at (254) 501-6315 for assistance. Please know all ten digits must be dialed,” according to the release. “The Killeen Fire Department has fulfilled all verified requests for bottled water, delivering more than 30 cases to residents, as well as a Water Buffalo with potable water to the Killeen Animal Shelter for pets.”
Residents are invited the City Council meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall where the water issue is on the agenda for discussion. For those unable to attend, please watch our weekly livestream: http://www.killeentexas.gov/281/Council-Live-Streaming.