Following the discovery of the presence of an asphalt emulsifying agent in the municipal water supply on December 14, 2016, Corpus Christi officials issued a warning to residents about drinking municipal tap water. That warning was lifted on Sunday, December 15, but the event has raised serious issues concerning the safety of the water supply, who should be held responsible, and how to prevent future problems.
The warning was issued after officials learned that an asphalt emulsifying agent, Indulin AA-86, leaked from a mixing tank in the industrial district. The officials have speculated that the contamination resulted from a lack of a backflow preventer, an inadequate backflow preventer, or the failure of a backflow preventer.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and Corpus Christi city officials are collaborating to determine the exact source of the contamination, the extent of the problem, and corrective measures that need to be taken. Regarding the cause of the problem, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times cites a statement issued by Valero Marketing and Supply Co., which leases an asphalt plant to
Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions Inc. In a separate statement, Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions said that there was a backflow issue at a tank it operates at the site and that “a soap solution, which is comprised of approximately 98 percent water and 2 percent Indulin AA-86 and hydrochloric acid, back flowed into the separate water line within the Valero terminal.” As a result of this event, several lawsuits have been filed against Valero and Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions.
What does this mean for residents of Corpus Christi? If they notice a smell in their water similar to that of motor or vegetable oil, they should report this to the city by calling 361-826-2489. They may also have recourse to legal action if they have suffered harm as a result of ingesting contaminated water.