15 Percent of Corpus Christi Cleared to Use Tap Water After Chemical Spill

The back-flow incident led the city to warn residents against using tap water.

ByABC News
December 16, 2016, 1:35 PM

— -- The mayor of Corpus Christi, Texas, said today that 15 percent of the city now has access to potable tap water, nearly two days after a chemical spill left residents unable to drink or bathe in the tap water.

"We've still got a big issue out there," Mayor Dan McQueen told reporters today, adding that he expected water quality test results from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality later this morning.

A map of the areas where the tap water has been cleared can be found here.

Corpus Christi City Manager Margie Rose said two sites had been opened where residents could get free water and that the city was attempting to open others so that people could pick up free bottled water instead of waiting in long lines for water at grocery stores.

Volunteers may be used to bring donated water to some residents who are not mobile, McQueen said.

City officials issued the warning to stop using tap water on Wednesday night after an estimated 3 to 24 gallons of a petroleum-based chemical called Indulin AA-86 seeped into the city's water because of a back flow from an area oil refinery.

Indulin AA-86, which is used as an asphalt emollient, is considered hazardous by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It can cause burns to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, according a safety data sheet released by its manufacturer.

Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions Inc., a Mississippi-based company, issued a statement to ABC News today that it is "working around the clock and is committed to providing support to assist in getting the drinking water supply back online."

The company "has been in contact with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding the water supply in Corpus Christi and is working cooperatively to provide all information to ensure state officials can remedy the situation as quickly as possible," company officials said in the statement.

At the news conference today, McQueen said the company had not been asked to attend any of the city news conferences. At a previous news conference on Thursday night, McQueen emphasized the problem started due to the company and not due to city involvement.

"Let me reiterate that all of this was caused by a third party. None of this was caused by the city," McQueen said.

After the chemical spill, city officials issued a statement warning against using tap water.

"Boiling, freezing, filtering, adding chlorine or other disinfectants or letting the water stand will not make the water safe," the warning read.

When the warning became widely known Thursday morning, residents were forced to wait in lines that wrapped around stores as they waited to buy water.

"It's worse than whenever we have hurricane evacuations," Noe Garcia, 28, said of the lines in an interview with ABC News on Thursday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Thursday that his office is "aggressively monitoring" the situation in Corpus Christi and coordinating with various state agencies to address the crisis.

"The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has been directed to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure this matter is handled as swiftly as possible, while maintaining the highest standards of safety," the governor's office said in its statement.

"The Governor has directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to coordinate shipments of drinking water to Corpus Christi to ensure the residents have access to a safe and clean water supply. Governor Abbott’s top priority is a transparent response and the safety of Corpus Christi residents, and our office will continue to provide any and all support to remedy this situation as quickly as possible," the statement added.