Erin Hatfield, communications director with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, answers questions about boil orders and advisories.
1. What is the difference between a precautionary boil advisory and a mandatory boil order?
A precautionary boil advisory is issued by a water system and is a recommendation to boil water prior to consumption. A mandatory boil order is issued by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for various reasons when drinking water is contaminated.
2. Why would a precautionary boil advisory be issued?
There are a lot of different reasons you could have a precautionary boil advisory. It depends on what's going on. Most of the issues going on right now are due to line breaks. When there is a line break, we cannot verify the safety of the drinking water because we don't know what's in there. So until we have samples that indicate the water is safe, we recommend a system do a precautionary boil advisory.
3. When would a precautionary boil advisory be lifted?
The precautionary boil advisories are issued by the systems so the systems will determine when they want to lift that. Certainly, DEQ can provide technical assistance or recommendations. We're here to ensure the safety of the drinking water.
4. What does it take for DEQ to issue a mandatory boil order?
Those can issued for a host of reasons, but one of the more common is turbidity issues. It depends on the contaminant that we're dealing with and there is a variety of reasons.
5. How many systems have issued precautionary boil advisories?
The list of precautionary boil advisories is changing all the time with about 75 systems issuing them as of Monday. Water systems are experiencing line breaks at levels they're not accustomed to so we recommend precautionary boil advisories. Our district engineers work hand-in-hand with the systems so typically, they're aware of an issue and will work with them, along with Oklahoma Strategic Alliance, which is made up of DEQ, Oklahoma Rural Water Association, and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
The systems are working and trying to restore service as quickly as possible. We're certainly working with those systems to do everything that we can to help them because all of these repairs take time. We want people to have water again as quickly as possible especially after everything that we've all been through. It's been a tough year and to have this historic storm on top of that has been challenging.