Corpus Christi Crisis & Response

Dec. 21, 2016

Last week, contamination of a drinking water system serving approximately 320,000 people befell Corpus Christi, Texas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) placed an immediate ban on tap water use in Corpus Christi after the city reported a “backflow incident” at Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions that contaminated the public water system with Indulin AA-86, an asphalt emulsifying agent.

The response from the EPA, city of Corpus Christi and TCEQ was quick, as samples of water were taken Dec. 15 and 16 to test for the contaminant that is linked to skin and intestinal irritation when ingested. The results of water tests, which found the water indeed was safe, were not released until Dec. 19, five days after the initial ban.

Only four states regulate the use of Indulin AA-86, and Texas is not one of them. Following this incident, it seems likely that legislators may find a way to encourage its regulation to prevent similar contamination in the future.

Regulations of that sort will be interesting to follow under President-Elect Donald Trump and his pick to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt. Their stance on deregulation stems from green energy and fossil fuels, but it not yet clear how much of that direction will translate to regulation of water.

The transparency of the testing process during this crisis, however, sets a good standard for future contaminations of this scale. Analytical data of the water have been posted online, and both EPA and TCEQ have indicated tests will continue this week to confirm the water is safe.

How do you think this incident will impact regulations and legislation in Texas? What did you think of the response from the EPA and TCEQ? Let us know in the comments below or send us an email at [email protected].