By Peak Johnson
Residents of Corpus Christi, TX, can breathe a sigh of relief now that it’s safe to drink their water once more.
City officials announced that the short-term ban was over. The ban had been in effect since the middle of December, when the city informed residents that a possible chemical contamination could make the water unsafe to use or consume.
In a question and answer feature from the Associated Press appearing on ABC News, it was revealed that employees of Valero Energy Corp., an asphalt plant leased to Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions, Inc., noticed rusty brown water coming from a faucet in the administration building late last month.
Valero said that its employees noticed "milky, sudsy water" at the faucet in early December “and notified the city and municipal workers flushed the water line.” The following day, Ergon officials were alerted and asked if their operations were the source of the tainted water.
Days later, Valero employees noticed the discolored water for a second time and alerted the city. Municipal workers tried to locate the source of the contaminated water but according to Assistant City Manager Mark Van Vleck, they did not locate a backflow protection device.
These devices are usually required by the state at industrial sites in order to stop chemicals "from backing up into pipes that feed clean water when pressure reverses."
Van Vleck added that Corpus Christi shut off water to the plant and then notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) the following afternoon of “what the state agency described in an internal memo as a ‘backflow incident from a chemical tank impacting the public water system.’”
Though the ban was lifted, officials said that regulators will continue water sampling to watch over the situation.
According to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Mayor Dan McQueen stated that it is possible there could be "a plume of contaminant in our water system.”
“We haven’t confirmed that, and we’re still working on that,” McQueen said at a press conference.
By working together with the TCEQ, Corpus Christi’s water system in all of its entirety will be evaluated, McQueen added.
Image credit: "Bottle Water, September 2009" Wallace_Lan © 2009 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/