Corpus Christi’s Water Ban Linked to Valero Contamination

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Citgo, Flint Hills, and Valero refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

More than 300,000 residents to avoid all contact with city water.

Corpus Christi officials have identified a chemical that is suspected to have leaked into the Texan city’s tap water on Wednesday night.

The contaminant, they say, is Indulin AA-86, an asphalt emulsifier which can burn human skin in concentrated form.

On Wednesday the city of 320,000 people announced that residents should not touch, drink or use the water.

The ban has since been lifted for some city dwellers while officials investigate the origin of the spill.

After a night-time meeting of the city council on Thursday, officials released a map of the city, showing that residents in the outlying regions could resume using city tap water.

Angry residents had gathered outside city hall throughout the day to call for answers and to chant:

“What do we want? Clean water! When do we want it? Now!”

As of Friday morning, about 15% of city residents were told they could use their water.

State officials have pledged to help the city, with the Texas Division of Emergency Management sending shipments of bottled water to the state.

A run on grocery stores had emptied shelves immediately after the ban was announced.

Water bottle distribution centres have been set up across Corpus Christi to establish the more than 100,000 cases that have been donated from around the country.

FedEx has said they will disrupt some holiday shipments in order to ensure the delivery of bottled water to the Gulf of Mexico city.

Officials say that about three to 24 gallons of the petroleum-based, glue-like substance was released by Ergon Asphalt and Emulsion Inc after a “back-flow incident” in the city’s industrial district.

Official say no reports of illness or injury has been reported related to the recent contamination.

(BBC News; Read Full Story)

The Texas Sierra Club has responded:

Late Wednesday evening, it was discovered that up to 24 gallons of a toxic chemical has leaked into Corpus Christi’s drinking water. The chemical, Indulin AA-86, comes from industrial activity located in Valero’s oil refinery operations, specifically related to a backflow preventer connected to asphalt production. City officials have recently given the green light for some areas of the city to use their tap water again, but warnings against using the tap water remain for large portions of the city of 320,000 people, noting that boiling, freezing, filtering, or any other method will not make the water safe.

The City has faced ongoing water concerns with the over 60-year old cast iron pipes needing to be upgraded since they are prone to collapsing, slow water flow, or permitting bacteria to contaminate the water. This is the fourth time in nearly a year and a half that Corpus Christi has faced a water contamination issue.

In response Hal Suter, Chair of the Coastal Bend Sierra Club, released the following statement:

“This contamination reminds us once again that putting dangerous industrial operations in and around our communities is a recipe for disaster. The gutting of resources to inspect and investigate these facilities compounds the danger. It has never been a question of whether these systems – whether they be pipelines, refineries, or any other operations — will leak or fail, but rather a question of when. The Sierra Club calls for the cause of the contamination to be investigated immediately in a transparent way, and precautions taken to ensure the people of Corpus Christi remain safe.

“Access to safe drinking water is a right that must be protected, regardless of if you live in Flint, Michigan, on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, or in Corpus Christi, Texas.”

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