The Latest: Mayor calls unconfirmed illnesses 'rumors'

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Posted: Dec 17, 2016 5:40 PM
The Latest: Mayor calls unconfirmed illnesses 'rumors'

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — The Latest on the water issues in Corpus Christi (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

The mayor of Corpus Christi says he won't know until Sunday whether a ban on drinking, cooking or bathing with tap water will be lifted for the 113,000 residents still under the restrictions.

That's roughly a third of the Gulf Coast city's population. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a citywide ban late Wednesday that has been either partially or fully lifted in most neighborhoods.

Mayor Dan McQueen also told reporters Saturday that there is no indication yet that the chemical leak at an asphalt plant contaminated the city's water supply.

An answer could come Sunday when the first results of 30 samples taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are released.

The agency said in a statement Saturday that there were four "unconfirmed reports" of symptoms possibly related to prohibited water use. McQueen called the reports "rumors."

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2 p.m.

A spokesman for the company where a chemical possibly leaked into Corpus Christi's public water system says he is looking for answers from the state environmental agency.

Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions spokesman Bill Miller said Saturday that he is pushing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for answers on whether there was actually contamination. The state banned water use in the city on Wednesday night, though much of that ban has been lifted, at least partially.

"Inaction is bad for people in our position. The longer we sit here, the worse it looks," he said.

Assistant City Manager Mark Van Vleck said Saturday that the city received three reports of dirty water at the Ergon asphalt plant site over the course of 12 days, the last being one of a "white, sudsy liquid." The city determined there was a chemical leak and a backflow problem.

Van Vleck also said that the city has found no water contamination but the investigation continues.

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1:25 p.m.

More than a half-dozen lawsuits have been filed against oil refiner Valero and a company it leases a plant to in Corpus Christi since city officials issued notice of a possible chemical spill Wednesday.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports (http://bit.ly/2gWNQcB ) that several businesses and a class-action lawsuit representing all of the city's residents claim that the companies recklessly exposed business owners and residents to toxic chemicals.

City spokeswoman DeAnna McQueen says that all but one city district have had the city's water ban partially lifted.

McQueen says water supplies are being tested and three water towers in the area are being flushed out.

Assistant City Manager Mark Van Vleck said an investigation is ongoing and that the city has found no water contamination.

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This item has been corrected to show the city spokeswoman's name is DeAnna, not Deanna.

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1:20 p.m.

A top Corpus Christi official says there were three reports of dirty water before the public was told this week of a chemical leak into the water system.

Assistant City Manager Mark Van Vleck said Saturday that the city first received a "dirty water report" Dec. 1 from the Valero-owned administration building at the asphalt plant leased to Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions. City workers flushed the pipe.

A second report came from the same building Dec. 7, and the main was flushed again.

Van Vleck said Valero workers told the public works department Monday that a "white, sudsy liquid" was in the administration building. Van Vleck didn't specify where the liquid was coming from.

He said city officials determined there was a leak in the chemical tank that day, and the next day determined there was a backflow problem.

The city told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about it Wednesday, and hours later, the state notified the public.

Van Vleck said an investigation is ongoing and that the city has found no water contamination.

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12:05 a.m.

An email from a Texas environmental official shows a chemical leak from an asphalt plant that led Corpus Christi officials to warn residents this week not to drink the water was apparently reported a week earlier.

The internal email sent Wednesday by Susan Clewis, a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality official, contained an incident report describing the leak as a "backflow incident" that impacted the public water system. It was reported Dec. 7 at a plant run by Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions.

It doesn't say who initially reported the leak on Dec. 7 or to whom. It says the state environmental agency was notified Wednesday. City officials notified the public that evening.

Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen has said local officials also only learned of the leak Wednesday.