Oily black liquid is coming out of residential faucets in the rural Texas town of Crystal City, and no one is sure who to alert. That’s because twelve days ago, the FBI arrested all but one the top elected officials in town for their involvement in an illegal gambling ring and immigrant smuggling.
The murky water force local schools to close early on Thursday, a decision made by the school district Superintendent Imelda Allen.
“There’s not really anyone in charge to oversee and to make people aware of the condition of the water. So I wasn’t going to wait for anyone to call me from City Hall. I know that leadership is not present at the time,” Allen said.
Instead of calling vacant city officials, residents turned to Facebook and Twitter to alert others of the problem on Wednesday. Crystal City’s Facebook page, manned by an unknown city staffer, informed residents of the problem the following morning — and simply encouraged them to “boil water if necessary.”
According to remaining city staff, the water’s coloring was a result of a recently flushed water tank that hadn’t been cleaned in 20 or 30 years. Many residents expressed their disappointment in the delay on the city’s Facebook page and across social media.
“We apologize for the burden this issue has caused, we are currently going through administrative challenges that minimizes our coordination on certain levels,” the page posted in response. “Please continue to voice your opinion, and please vote.”
City staffers opened fire hydrants in hopes of further flushing the black water Thursday afternoon. But it’s still unclear whether the problem has been fixed.
According to the the area’s district attorney Richard Durbin, the arrested officials have not resigned from their jobs and “for the time being, they remain the elected officials and the representatives of that city.” None of these officials have spoken about the water problem, and the city’s mayor, Ricardo Lopez — who was arrested again on Tuesday for assault — has said he “will not step in another council meeting.”
Crystal City certainly isn’t the only town suffering from water problems, but it is undoubtedly unique. As reports of lead-tainted water come in from cities across the country, from Flint, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois, Crystal City’s black sludge is an example of yet another way a city’s faulty water system can leave residents frightened — and thirsty.