San Angelo, TX

San Angelo Under Strict No-Water Usage Until Testing is Completed

Melinda Crow

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Photo of courtesy of City of San Angelo

San Angelo, Texas February 9, 2021 10:13 a.m. CST Residents of San Angelo and surrounding areas in Tom Green County that purchase water from the city have been advised to avoid using tap water for any purpose other than flushing toilets or watering landscaping. In a statement from the city, residents were told that the water is not suitable for handwashing or bathing.

The issue arose late in the evening February 8, when more than 50 residents of the PaulAnn neighborhood complained of an unusual odor from their tap water. One resident described the odor of "mothballs." The water department was called in to collect water samples, which were then turned over to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The city continues to monitor the water and work with TCEQ in determining what led to the odor in the water, but the chemical in mothballs is naphthalene.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center:

Naphthalene is made from crude oil or coal tar. It is also produced when things burn, so naphthalene is found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and smoke from forest fires. It is used as an insecticide and pest repellent. Naphthalene was first registered as a pesticide in the United States in 1948.

Additionally, NPIC describes the signs and symptoms of brief exposure to naphthalene:

People have developed headaches, nausea, dizziness, and/or vomiting after being exposed to naphthalene vapors. If someone breathes in enough of the vapor or eats a mothball containing naphthalene, they might develop hemolytic anemia. This is when red blood cells break apart, and no longer carry oxygen the way they should. Small children have also developed diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and painful urination with discolored urine after eating naphthalene mothballs. Dogs that have eaten naphthalene mothballs may have lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite and tremors.

Until the water has been cleared by city officials and TCEQ, all restaurant service is shut down throughout the city. The recommendation is to use bottled water for drinking and any purpose that would put you in direct contact with the water.

The city also explained that boiling the water will not help because the source of the odor is not believed to be bacterial.

We are continuously monitoring for bacteria – it is not present at this time.

Results from the testing are expected later today, according to city officials.

The potential for contamination from a city-wide system is of particular concern this week following the hacking of a water system in Oldsmar, Florida, near Tampa Bay over the weekend. In that incident, a hacker took control of the water system and increased the amounts of sodium hydroxide in the water by more than 100 times.

"This is obviously a significant and potentially dangerous increase," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is the main ingredient in liquid drain cleaners."

According to ChemicalSafetyFacts.org:

Municipal water treatment facilities use sodium hydroxide to control water acidity and to help remove heavy metals from water. Sodium hydroxide is also used to produce sodium hypochlorite, a water disinfectant.

A water employee noticed the change on the system's computers and readjusted the levels of the dangerous chemical. Local and federal authorities are investigating the Florida case. At this point, there is no reason to connect the situation in San Angelo with the Florida hacking, but officials are acting in an abundance of caution.

The water systems listed below are customers of the City of San Angelo Water System and should heed the no-use warnings.

·       Turquoise Water

·       Concho Rural Water Pecan Creek

·       City of Miles

·       Twin Buttes Water System

·       Concho Rural Water Grape Creek

·       Water Wagon Water Hauling Service

·       Goodfellow AFB

·       Red Creek MUD

·       Concho Rural Water – Water Hauling

·       Original Services Water Hauler

·       Millersview-Doole Water System

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