Update, December 19, 2:41 p.m. ET:
Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen told residents yesterday (December 18) that they can resume using tap water for drinking, cooking and other household needs after EPA test results showed no further contamination following last week’s chemical leak.
Their are unconfirmed reports of at least four people facing undisclosed symptoms related to the water contamination. The EPA and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will continue to collect and test water samples over the next several days, and The Associated Press reports that the federal agency will begin an in-depth investigation and “take appropriate action.”
Today (December 16) marks day three of drinking water contamination in Corpus Christi, Texas, a largely Latinx city of 324,000.
City officials identified the chemical yesterday (December 15) as Indulin AA-86, an asphalt emulsifier, and estimate that anywhere between three to 24 gallons of the substance has entered the drinking water supply as a result of a “back-flow incident” in the industrial district. It can cause respiratory issues and serious eye damage when consumed. The city continues to investigate the situation, but the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that individual “dirty water” reports have been trickling in since December 1.
The official water notice was released December 14, when the city urged residents to only use bottled water for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing and any household use. Filters don’t work, according to authorities. After the water advisory, residents rushed to grocery stores to purchase as much bottled water as they could, according to social media. However, the city spokesperson Kim Womack told CNN that donations have been pouring in with 100,000 cases on the way. “With that being said, none of it is in the city yet.”
Yesterday, free water distribution began in just two sites which carried 22 pallets of water each and offered one case of water per vehicle. So far, the city has notified three neighborhoods that they can resume use of their tap water: Flour Bluff, Padre Island and Calallen. Corpus Christi has become a tourist hub for fans of Tejana musician Selena Quintanilla, who grew up there. In May, the Chamber of Commerce was concerned that previous water issues would taint the city’s reputation and tourism industry, reported the Caller-Times.
The situation is reminiscent of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where leached lead contaminated the drinking water for the city’s almost 100,000 residents. The crisis first started with a series of boil water advisories and warnings. More than two years after that first boil water advisory, residents still rely on filtered or bottled water.