Ban on drink­ing re­mains while town awaits test re­sults Sun­day

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Frank Bajak

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.

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