Corpus Christi Still Reeling From Water Contamination

James Palmer

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) — Corpus Christi has lifted water restrictions in parts of the city, but businesses have gone to court to try to hold the alleged corporate culprits accountable.

The city of 325,000 on the Gulf of Mexico warned its residents last Wednesday night not to drink, cook with, or even bathe in tap water, because an asphalt emulsifier made by Valero Refining had contaminated the water system. The chemical, Indulin AA86, can burn the skin and irritate the intestinal tract. The city said 3 to 24 gallons of it entered the water system due to a back-flow accident.

On Thursday night the city lifted restrictions on water in Zone One, in the northwest and southeast areas. It told residents of Zone Two they can bath in their water, but not drink it. On Friday, residents of Zone Three, which is closest to the Valero plant, were still being warned not to use their water for anything other than flushing toilets.
By Thursday evening, two restaurants had sued Valero and its chemical supplier, Ergon Asphalt Emulsions, in one lawsuit in Nueces County Court, and a beauty salon filed a similar, separate complaint.

Anthony’s Aveda Concept Salon seeks damages for its forced closure while authorities investigated the contamination. It accused Valero of failing to shut down its plant for repairs “purely out of consideration of costs and profits.” It also claims Valero fail to inform residents and businesses of the contamination in a timely manner.

The restaurants, WaterStreet and Costa Sur Peruvian Fusion, also seek damages for lost profits. They also fear Valero may have allowed “dangerous chemicals” into their pipes, which could leave residue and become a chronic problem.

Valero could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

The salon seeks punitive damages for negligence, liability for ultrahazardous activity, assault and battery, public and private nuisance and trespass. It is represented by Robert Hilliard with Hilliard Munoz Gonzales.

The restaurants seek damages for negligence, trespass, and private nuisance. They are represented by Craig Sico with Sico Hoelscher Harris & Braugh, both of Corpus Christi.