The drinking water contamination in Flint, Michigan has been getting a lot of attention in recent months, but that city is far from the only place in America where the water in residents’ homes has proved toxic. Folks living in the rural town of Crystal City, Texas are among the latest victims of failed public utilities, as an oily black liquid replaced the clear drinking water coming out of their taps. Local residents took to social media to alert their fellow community members about the problem, because they couldn’t report it to authorities. All but one of the town’s top elected officials aren’t currently serving in their posts, having been arrested on gambling charges and allegations of immigrant smuggling two weeks ago.

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The Crystal City debacle has all the makings of a dark comedy. The FBI locked up most of the city’s leaders two weeks before the black water began flowing, leaving virtually nobody to respond to the water crisis. On Thursday of last week, school district Superintendent Imelda Allen closed schools early due to the tainted water. Allen says there were no officials left at City Hall to respond to the problem and spread the word, so residents started posting photos and warnings on Facebook and Twitter. The following morning, a yet-unknown city staffer posted a boil alert on Crystal City’s Facebook page, but it’s evident from the photos that boiling this water was not going to solve the problem.


Local media reported that remaining city staff suggested the murky water is the result of flushing the city’s water tank, which had not been cleaned in as much as 30 years. The tank was flushed on Wednesday, Feb 17, causing black sediment and deposits to flow through the water pipes and into people’s sinks and bathtubs. The city didn’t publish the notice explaining the problem until 12:10pm the following day, Thursday, Feb 18, by which time most of the residents of the town were already experiencing the horror show firsthand.

Residents criticized the city on Facebook for issuing the reply so late, as well as for allowing the problem to occur in the first place. The city’s page admin responded with a veiled apology: “We apologize for the burden this issue has caused, we are currently going through administrative challenges that minimize our coordination on certain levels.” It’s not often that a town like Crystal City encounters an ‘administrative challenge’ like having most of its officials locked up for allegedly breaking multiple federal laws, but it’s easy to understand why residents might not find that excuse very satisfying.

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The town’s mayor Ricardo Lopez, one of the many officials who faces FBI charges, tendered his resignation effective 3pm local time on Friday, Feb 19. On Feb 20, the city updated its Facebook page with a new notice, citing water quality testing results received earlier that day which indicated the water was again safe to drink.

Via Think Progress

Images via KSAT and Ashlei King/Twitter