Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend of Texas | We Investigate

Texas AG proposes $1.3M fine against Valero for city water contamination

A water contamination scare that forced Corpus Christi residents to go without tap water for several days could cost an oil refining company $1.3 million in fines.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has proposed the penalties against Valero Energy Corporations for a backflow incident at the Valero Corpus Christi Asphalt Plant, according to information released in Valero’s 1st quarterly earnings summary on May 7.

“We are working with the Texas AG to resolve this matter,” according to the publicly filed report.

The company did not have any additional comments beyond information released in the report, said Lillian Riojas, Valero’s executive director media relations and communication, in an emailed response.

Additionally, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has proposed a $167,500 fine against Valero “for inspection and permit violations related to third-party tanks located at our Corpus Christi Refinery that we operate,” according to the quarterly report.

In December 2016, residents endured three days without tap water, forcing many to rely on bottled water for drinking, showering and cooking. The source of the problem was at an industrial site where a company called Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions manufactures an oil-based product used to seal roads. The company leases the property from Valero.

City officials had concerns that a chemical called Indulin AA-86 had leaked into the water supply. The reason no one knew for sure is that no backflow device was found on the property where there should have been one.

A KRIS 6 News investigation revealed the City of Corpus Christi was not enforcing its backflow prevention rules, which require anyone who has a device connected to a city water line, such as a sprinkler system, to install a simple plumbing mechanism that prevents that system from contaminating the city water supply. It also requires that the device be regularly inspected.

At the time, the city required more than 14,000 property owners to have a backflow device inspected. One in four had not, according to information provided by the city.

The city of Corpus Christi has not provided KRIS 6 News a complete list of which property owners were not compliant at the time of the water ban, citing an exemption under the Texas Public Information Act that allows the information to be kept private from public disclosure because of homeland security concerns.

Valero Energy Corporations 2019 1st quarter report earnings summary:

Attorney General of the State of Texas (Texas AG) (Corpus Christi Asphalt Plant). We have received a letter and draft Agreed Final Judgment from the Texas AG related to a contaminated water backflow incident that occurred at the Valero Corpus Christi Asphalt Plant. The draft Agreed Final Judgment assesses proposed penalties in the amount of $1,300,000. We are working with the Texas AG to resolve this matter.

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Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) (Corpus Christi Refinery). We have received a proposed Agreed Order from the TCEQ
in the amount of $167,550, for inspection and permit violations related to third party tanks located at our Corpus Christi Refinery that we operate. We are working with the TCEQ to resolve this matter.

Jessica Savage

Jessica Savage

Award-winning investigative reporter who has worked in East Texas and South Texas.
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