December 18, 2016 / 7:04 PM / 9 months ago

Texas city lifts tap water ban after chemical spill

Dec 18 (Reuters) - Corpus Christi lifted a four-day ban on drinking tap water on Sunday when authorities deemed it to be safe despite a chemical leak that forced most of the Texas city’s residents to rely on bottled water and prompted the closures of schools and restaurants.

Residents of the Gulf of Mexico city were told on Wednesday to stop using tap water for drinking, food preparation and bathing. About 85 percent of Corpus Christi, with a population of about 320,000, was under the restrictions.

After investigating the possible leak of up to 24 gallons (91 liters) of an asphalt emulsifier, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the city determined the water was safe to use again, city spokeswoman Kim Womack said in a statement.

The chemical, called Indulin AA-86, can cause eye and skin burns, respiratory tract irritation and damage to the digestive systems. But it is not known to be carcinogenic, according to safety data.

The city has said the chemical may have contaminated Corpus Christi water due to a “back-flow incident” in the city’s industrial district.

Valero Energy Corp, which operates an asphalt terminal in the area, said it believed the possible backflow problem came from third-party operations in the area of its facility.

It was not immediately clear if the water had been contaminated. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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