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Corpus Christi halts tap water use due to suspected chemical leak

Officials in Corpus Christi: Don't drink or use tap water

The Texas city of Corpus Christi has told its almost 320,000 residents to stop using tap water due to possible contamination from an industrial chemical leak, city officials said on Thursday.

The release said a "recent back-flow incident" in the industrial district possibly caused the contamination, but it did not name the industry.

"This is just the beginning of what we are doing to help our residents or citizens", city spokeswoman Kim Womack said at an event to update the public on the contamination incident, which led to the city's warning on Wednesday about using tap water and prompted the closure of at least some city schools and a rush on bottled water at local stores. The city warned that boiling, freezing, filtering or taking other actions would not make the water safe. Upward of 24 gallons of it may have entered the water supply.

At this time, we believe this is a localized backflow issue from third party operations in the area of Valero's asphalt terminal.

The city's notice urges residents to limit themselves to bottle water for "all drinking, beverage and food preparation (including baby formula and juice), making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes or clothes, washing hands, and bathing until further notice".

Residents said lines to buy bottled water have been so long that they wrap around stores.

While the corporation is denying that the water is contaminated, the city is saying otherwise. We believe this issue is isolated to a lateral industrial line. Hunter described the possible contaminants as two petroleum-based chemicals.

September 16, 2015: The final area under a water boil advisory receives the all-clear from city officials.

Boil-water notices were issued a year ago because of elevated levels of E. coli and another for low chlorine levels, the Caller-Times previously reported.

City crews have worked to reconfigure some water mains to ensure that water keeps circulating and to prevent bacteria growth. There, despite assurances that tap water is now safe to drink, many residents still opt for bottled water, instead.