Ban on drinking remains while town awaits test results Sunday
corpus christi, texas» There were three reports of dirty water before the 300,000 residents of Corpus Christi were told not to drink the city’s water because of a chemical leak at an asphalt plant, city officials said Saturday, adding that the city has not found evidence of water contamination.
Mayor Dan McQueen said he won’t know until Sunday whether a ban on drinking, cooking or bathing with tap water will be lifted for the 113,000 citizens still under the restriction.
McQueen, who took office Tuesday after defeating an incumbent who came under fire for her handling of previous water crises, said there is no indication yet that the chemical leak at an asphalt plant contaminated the Gulf Coast city’s water supply.
Officials are hoping the answer will come Sunday with the release of the first results of 30 samples taken by the Environmental Protection Agency and being tested in Houston.
McQueen said the city would seek to recoup its losses from the polluter.
The EPA also said in a statement Saturday that there were four “unconfirmed reports” of symptoms possibly related to prohibited water use. McQueen called the reports “rumors.”
Assistant City Manager Mark Van Vleck said earlier that the first “dirty-water report” came Dec. 1 from the Valero-owned administration building at the asphalt plant that’s leased to Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions. City workers flushed the pipe. A second report came from the same building Dec. 7, he said, and the main was flushed again.
“We get dirty water reports all the time,” Van Vleck said of the first two, saying old cast-iron pipes are usually the reason.
But Valero workers told the public works department Monday that “something white and sudsy” was in water at the administration building. City workers determined there was a leak in a chemical tank at the asphalt plant and Tuesday determined there was a back-flow problem.
The city told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about it Wednesday, Van Vleck said, and hours later, the state banned use of public drinking water.
TCEQ spokesman Terry Clawson said Saturday that the full city ban was justified.
“We did not have enough info to lift any bans or modify any bans until we did so,” he said.
Neither the city nor the state had information on the chemical composition of the spilled substance until Thursday afternoon.
A report by the TCEQ obtained Friday indicated that a combination of Indulin AA86 and hydrochloric acid leaked into the water supply. Indulin is an asphalt-emulsifying agent that’s corrosive and can burn the eyes, skin and respiratory tract if a person comes into contact with concentrated amounts. The amber liquid is considered a hazardous material by OSHA.