Official: Texas city had 3 reports of dirty water before ban

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 due to 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.

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.

Monday, Valero workers told the public works department “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 on Tuesday determined there was a backflow 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.