Some residents of San Angelo are entering their second week without useable water.
On Friday, Feb. 5, the water utility received complaints about an odd smell coming from the city’s water. By the following Monday, residents were told not to use city water for any purpose.
For most residents, the order didn’t last long. But tests in some parts of the city by San Angelo’s water department and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality showed unsafe levels of industrial chemicals such as benzene and naphthalene – which have been shown to cause cancer.
Lucy Gonzales is a member of the San Angelo City Council and represents much of the area that’s still without usable water.
“It’s been very hard, it’s been very frustrating. Kinda scary to some people,” Gonzales told Texas Standard.
Gonzales said that the contamination was related to a backflow issue, where water reverses its flow, picks up chemicals, and then flows back into the broader system. Gonzales noted that there is an industrial park in the area where the water was contaminated, but it’s still unclear whether the chemicals came from a business there, or somewhere else.
“Right now, the investigation is ongoing to find out what the source is, where it came from, how it got started,” Gonzales said.
So far, no illnesses related to water consumption have been reported, a city spokesperson told The Texas Tribune.
The City of San Angelo is still distributing bottled water to people who need it, although that effort has been hindered by recent snowfall in the area. The snow has also made it harder to get water samples from San Angelo to Austin, where they are tested in a lab.