Houston Blames Water Outage on Failure of Backup Transformer

Houston Blames Water Outage on Failure of Backup Transformer

Houston’s citywide water outage stemmed from the failure of two electrical transformers at a key treatment complex that prevented officials from turning on backup generators.

The outage that shuttered schools, delayed surgeries and forced some restaurants and other businesses to close their doors in the fourth-largest US city on Monday may stretch into a second day, given that initial results of safety tests won’t be known until 3 a.m. local time.

Water pressure in the city’s distribution network fell below levels required to ensure it’s safe to drink on Sunday after a transformer blew at a major water-treatment complex, Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a media briefing. When a backup transformer also blinked off, the city was unable to feed generator power into the plant. Turner described the backup glitch as “a very unique and unfortunate situation.”

Within a half-hour of the transformer failures, pressure readings at 16 monitoring stations dropped below 20 pounds per square inch — the minimum level required under state regulations to ensure the water is free of harmful bacteria and other contaminants, according to the city’s timeline.

Transformers are crucial gear in electrical systems because they modulate the voltage to make it safe for commercial, industrial and residential uses.

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