Friday 16 December 2016

Chemical spill leaves Corpus Christi, Texas, without water.

The city of Corpus Christi in Nueces County, Texas, was forced to advise residents to stop drinking tap-water on Wednesday 14 December 2016, following a chemical spill at an oil refinery that entered the water supply system. Between 10 and 90 litres of the chemical Idulin AA-86 was released into the system from a site run by the Mississippi-based Ergon Asphalt and Emulsion Inc., following what has been described as a 'back-flow incident', prompting the advice in accordance with guidelines issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. About 15% of the city has since had its water supplies declared safe, while other residents are being advised to collect bottled water from two distribution centres, or in the case of residents with mobility problems, rely on volunteers to deliver water.

Residents of Corpus Christi, Texas, stocking up on bottled water from grocery stores following the 14 December 2016 chemical spill. AP.

Indulin AA-86 is an emulsifying agent (a chemical that helps other chemicals that would otherwise separate to remain together in a mixture) used in the manufacture of asphalt. It is corrosive, and can cause damage to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract on contact. The chemical is described as insoluble (i.e. will not normally mix with water), but this would not prevent droplets of the substance being spread through the water system.

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