Corpus Christi halts tap water use due to chemical leak
Water from the tap is poured into a glass (Shutterstock)

The Texas city of Corpus Christi has told its nearly 320,000 residents to stop using tap water due to possible contamination from an industrial chemical leak, city officials said on Thursday.

The city said it is investigating the possible leak of three to 24 gallons (13.6 to 109 liters) of an asphalt emulsifier called Indulin AA-86 and it may seek emergency water deliveries.

Local stores have reported a rush in demand for bottled water.

The chemical can cause eye and skin burns, respiratory tract irritation and damage to the digestive systems but is not known to be carcinogenic, according to safety data.

The city said in a statement it expected water testing results to come back later on Thursday afternoon and for residents to discontinue tap water use until at least then.

The chemical may have contaminated Corpus Christi drinking water due to a "back-flow incident in the industrial district," they city said in a statement on Wednesday, without providing further details about the incident.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said it had been consulted by city officials on the leak and expected to issue a statement later in the day about it.

The Gulf of Mexico coastal city, home to oil and petrochemicals operations and a large port, asked residents to use only bottled water. It said boiling, freezing, filtering, adding chlorine or other disinfectants, or letting tap water stand would not make the water safe.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham and Andrew Hay)