City of Laredo lifts boil water notice after 13 days
Updated on March 4, 2022: The City of Laredo has lifted its boil water notice for affected residents. The notice had been in effect for 13 days during which many residents in the city of Laredo were unable to use their tap water for drinking or activities like showering.
While the city is telling residents they can use their water again, Kristen Adams, a staff attorney for the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, said the repeated notices have eroded public trust in city leadership.
"There's absolutely zero confidence that a new boil water notice will not strike again soon," she said.
The day after the boil water notice lifted, Senator Judith Zaffirini reported another broken water line that has left some communities, including Alexander High School without water.
On February 18, 2022, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality required the city to issue a boil water notice due to a break in the city’s main water line. As a result, around 125,000 people had to restrict their water usage and boil their water for 13 days.
The city had asked impacted residents to shower in designated locations around Laredo. They also distributed water bottles but faced shortages.
Before the boil water notice ended, Adams said this is just another way in which the city’s water system isn’t serving its residents.
“At the very least, the city should have an emergency plan in place to ensure that consumers have access to safe drinking water when the system fails,” she said.
She represents an organization that’s working to ensure the safety of drinking water in South Laredo communities who are often the most affected by these boil water notices.
At a press conference the week after issuing the notice, Arturo Garcia, Laredo Utilities Department Director, said the break was due to corrosion of a 36-inch, 50-year-old pipe which should have been maintained.
At the conference, Mayor Pete Saenz acknowledged that the city needed to update the system.
“If the city knows that it needs a complete redesign of its water system, first it should do that with haste,” said Adams.
But this isn’t an isolated incident. The system has other old pipes that are also susceptible to breaks.
Saenz said it was expensive to upgrade the system and the money would have to come from a tax increase on residents.
Adams said this has been an ongoing issue. There have been six boil water notices in Laredo since September of 2019, and only two of the six boil water notices have been city-wide.
The other four have disproportionately affected people in South Laredo, specifically in colonias.
“It's extremely clear that the city is not living up to its obligations of providing safe drinking water and maintaining the system in a way in which they could do that,” said Adams.