TECQ issues boil-water notice for Texas city

Back in the day, coal miners used to carry a canary in a cage with them as they tunneled deep into the earth. The small bird functioned as a warning system. If the bird collapsed, miners knew it was time to flee before they were also overwhelmed by odorless toxic gases in the mineshafts.

A South Texas man said a neighbor’s birds recently served as canaries in a coal mine. This time, however, the warning was about the city of Laredo’s water supply. When Federico Reyes’neighbor called, puzzled about the deaths of her cockatoos and parrots, “the first thing that come up to my head is, well, it could be the water.” He said he checked the water and noticed it had a green tint. He then contacted Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Boiling point

The agency tested the water and found that it contained too little chlorine. The state agency soon issued a boil water notice, which required all city residents to boil water before drinking or using it for cooking.

It took a full week for the city’s mitigation efforts to make the water safe to drink again.

Reyes said he has since received a call from the city’s mayor, who both apologized for the water problem and thanked him for his service to city residents. Reyes said he was also thanked by a city council representative and members of the public.

Not everyone was supportive, however.

Asked for resignations

A pair of utility employees were asked by the Laredo city manager to resign their positions. They apparently failed to put new water safety procedures in place after similar problems were identified by TECQ in 2019.

In addition, a utility supervisor was suspended and “a higher up was written up,” according to a report by a local TV station.