DALLAS (Reuters) - Most of the nearly 320,000 residents of Corpus Christi, Texas, were relying on bottled water on Friday after possible contamination from an industrial chemical leak, while a tap water ban was lifted in some outlying areas.
The ban on using tap water for drinking, food preparation and bathing has led to school cancellations, restaurant closures and social media reports by residents of price gouging on cases of water.
"Right now, it looks like about 15 percent of the city has water that’s flowing,” Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen told a news conference on Friday. "We still got a big issue out there. We’ve got a lot of (bottled) water coming in and have stations for the public."
The city said it had corrected problems in the outlying areas but the mayor did not know when the rest of the city's water supply would be accessible. The city has received assurances from the Texas governor that it would receive supplies of fresh water.
The city was investigating the possible leak of up to 24 gallons (91 liters) of an asphalt emulsifier called Indulin AA-86.
The chemical can cause eye and skin burns, respiratory tract irritation and damage to the digestive systems but is not known to be carcinogenic, according to safety data.
The Gulf of Mexico coastal city, home to oil and petrochemicals operations and a large port, asked residents to use only bottled water until it could verify the water supply was safe.
Michelle Horine, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi, said families of sick children receiving treatment have been relying heavily on hand sanitizers and taking sponge bathes with donated water.
"All of our families have various conditions and they certainly don't need any additional health concerns," Horine told Reuters. "We can't wash our sheets, which is a major problem, so we can serve the next family.”
Energy company Valero said it believed the possible backflow problem came from third-party operations in the area of its asphalt terminal.
Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler