San Angelo residents without water as winter storm bears down

Amber Campos moves a pallet of bottled water from a semi-trailer truck at the loading dock of the H-E-B grocery store at in San Angelo on Tuesday. Many residents have been unable to use water from their faucets for days due to contamination.

Residents of San Angelo, a West Texas city in the Concho Valley, have gone days without safe drinking water after city officials discovered industrial chemicals contaminated the water system.

The crisis — which stretches into at least its fifth day Friday — in the city of 101,000 people has left residents frustrated and scared after the city told them Monday night to cease all uses of water other than flushing their toilets. They were also told that first boiling the water before use would not make it usable and, instead, only more dangerous.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found the water, which smelled like chemicals or mothballs, is contaminated with benzene, acetone, naphthalene and other chemicals consistent with industrial production.

The winter storm sweeping the state has complicated the struggle to restore safe water to the community and thwarted efforts to get water to those who need it. Hazardous road conditions have slowed water testing, as the tests need to travel more than three hours from San Angelo to a lab in Austin, and the conditions also delayed opening water distribution sites. At least one local group had to cease meal and water deliveries to the elderly on Thursday.

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