Residents of Corpus Christi, TX, are being advised by local officials to avoid drinking the city's tap water after an incident at a nearby industrial site which may have resulted in a serious contamination of the water supply.
In an emergency notice posted on late Wednesday evening, city officials warned that "an unknown chemical substance may have contaminated the City of Corpus Christi drinking water due to a recent back-flow incident in the industrial district." By Thursday morning, officials confirmed that anywhere from three to 24 gallons of the asphalt emulsifier Indulin AA86 may have leeched into the water.
In a statement to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times from a Valero oil refinery spokesperson, a company spokesperson confirms that:
At this time, we believe this is a localized backflow issue from third party operations in the area of Valero’s asphalt terminal. We do not believe this issue is being caused by Valero’s Corpus Christi refineries. While the City continues to investigate this issue, we do not believe the City’s water has been impacted. We believe this issue is isolated to a lateral industrial line.
The company's statement also pledges that Valero will aid the city in addressing the contamination.
Corpus Christi's notice urges residents to limit themselves to bottled water for "all drinking, beverage and food preparation (including baby formula and juice), making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes or clothes, washing hands, and bathing until further notice." It advises against efforts to clean the potentially contaminated water—such as boiling, or adding chlorine—saying it will "not make the water safe."
The announcement caused an immediate rush to local groceries, where residents reportedly rushed to stock up on clean, drinkable water, clearing many stores out within hours. According to KRIS, city officials have confirmed that emergency services are bringing bottled water into Corpus Christi. The station also said it is following up on incidents of price gouging as a result as of the shortages.
A number of schools in and around Corpus Christi have canceled classes for the day in response to the water contamination notice.
Wednesday's announcement is just the latest in a series of water warnings for the city. The Caller-Times reports that there have been three other such announcements over the past year and a half, although the earlier incidents were bacteria-based, and residents at the time were told they could boil water for safe consumption.
The city has pledged to work with various state and industry officials to "correct the situation as quickly as possible." However, with a population of over 300,000 people, even a day without safe tap water presents a major disruption tp thousands of residents' lives.
Corpus Christi's latest water crisis comes just days after the United States Senate voted in favor of legislation that included $100 million earmarked to replace the aging infrastructure responsible for the catastrophic lead contamination into Flint, Michigan's water supply. There, despite assurances that tap water is now safe to drink, many residents still opt for bottled water.