Corpus Christi water tests clean after years of advisories

The shelves in the bottled water section of a Walmart in Corpus Christi were nearly empty on the morning of Dec. 15, 2016. Nearly two years after the city's water ban, the area's water now has a clean bill of health.
The shelves in the bottled water section of a Walmart in Corpus Christi were nearly empty on the morning of Dec. 15, 2016. Nearly two years after the city’s water ban, the area’s water now has a clean bill of health.
Courtesy, Shalonn Simmons

For years, Corpus Christi residents have dealt with water quality issues — including four water advisories over the course of 17 months. But now, the city’s drinking water is finally considered clean.

The city presented its annual drinking water quality report to the public Monday night, showing that in 2017, city water was in compliance with all parameters set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA requires water suppliers to report water quality every year. Testing 15 categories of contaminants, the city found that the presence of all possible contaminants were below the EPA’s maximum allowed level, indicating good water quality across the board, said Gabriel Ramirez, assistant director of water quality and treatment for the city.

Crystal Ybanez, Corpus Christi’s water quality manager, said that in the decade she and Ramirez have been working on the city’s water, “it’s really been an adventure going from where we were and seeing how much we’ve improved and progressed. I think we’re starting to see that in our public perceptions, as well.”

Since 2015, Corpus Christi residents have had to deal with a variety of water contaminations. In July 2015, E. coli was found in water samples. A few months later, a boil notice was issued because of low chlorine, and bacteria were found in water in May 2016.

Then, in December 2016, residents were told to stop using tap water altogether for fear of an unknown chemical that had leaked into the water. It was later confirmed that an asphalt emulsifier had contaminated the water system, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Along the way, city manager Ron Olson resigned, taking responsibility for the city’s water issues. Frustrated residents ousted mayor Nelda Martinez for political novice Dan McQueen — though he abruptly resigned after just 37 days in office amid fallout from the December 2016 water advisory.

“It’s been a couple years since we had those issues happen,” Ramirez said. “We’re on a good streak of keeping the water quality where it needs to be.”

Ybanez credited the improved quality to a change in how the city treats water. In March 2017, chlorine dioxide, which Ramirez said keeps water quality more “stable and robust” and adds another layer of disinfection, was added to the city’s water treatment plan.

The city is constantly monitoring and adjusting its water system, the two said. Both said a more proactive approach and cohesiveness across the department have helped improve how the city manages its water.

But there are still infrastructure improvements to be made — most prominently to Corpus Christi’s 64-year-old water treatment plant. Ramirez said the plant is undergoing renovations that are estimated to be complete by 2020.



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