Black Water Flows Out Of Taps In Crystal City, Texas

It's the latest crisis to hit Crystal City, where most of the top officials have been arrested on corruption charges.

02/19/2016 03:33 pm ET

There's something dirty in Crystal City, Texas, and it's not just top officials -- it's the water.

After the arrest of the town's mayor this week, and several weeks after the arrests of nearly every top official, residents report that black water is flowing from their taps.

People started posting dramatic photos of the dark-colored water online earlier this week. 

Residents received no notice from the city, according to multiple local media reports.

"We didn't get a proper warning, they didn't post anything or send out any type of message to warn the residents. It was pretty scary," Nora Flores-Guerrero told local news station KSAT.

It wasn't until Thursday that an explanation finally appeared on the city's Facebook page, saying the murky water was due to a flushing of the city's elevated water tank:

"The dark color water was a result of residue from the tank after it was flushed," said a representative for the city's department of water who did not give her name.

She also told The Huffington Post that the water has been tested and is safe. However, as a "precautionary measure," the city is providing bottled water to the elderly and portable water to affected homes Friday afternoon, she said. Crystal City's Independent School District is also providing bottled water to its four schools, My San Antonio reported.

The city has urged all residents to run their water before using and boil it if needed.

Crystal City residents say the notice from city leaders came a day after they started having issues with their water.

Posted by KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Thursday, February 18, 2016

Carlos Ramierz, the superintendent of the water department, said the water tower hadn't been cleaned in 20 or 30 years, according to local news station KSAT. He said residents got no warning because the city didn't know the sediment would get into distribution lines. 

A town of roughly 7,000 people, Crystal City calls itself the "Spinach Capital of the World," according to Reuters, and it continues to draw thousands each year to its annual Spinach Festival. The spinach-loving cartoon character Popeye is part of the city's logo, and there's a statue of him in front of City Hall. But lately the town has been grabbing more headlines for its elected officials -- and their alleged misdeeds -- than for its leafy greens.

Nearly every top elected official in the town was arrested earlier this month and accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and helping an illegal gambling operation, according to a Feb. 4 release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Mayor Ricardo Lopez, Mayor Pro Tem Rogelio Mata, his brother Councilman Roel Mata, City Manager William James Jonas and former Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo were arrested, along with Ngoc Tri Nguyen, a 38-year-old Texas businessman accused of operating illegal gambling facilities.

The federal indictment alleges that since last year, the officials used their positions "to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City." 

Mayor Lopez was arrested again on Tuesday by his own police department on charges that he was "inciting a riot" after the mayor reportedly got into a dispute with several angry residents. 

In January, another city council member, Marco Rodriguez, was arrested on human smuggling charges. According to local news station KENS, Rodriguez admitted to being paid to transport undocumented immigrants on multiple occasions. Crystal City, southwest of San Antonio, sits about 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Only one member of the city council is not currently facing federal corruption charges: Joel Barajas, who has only been in office for nine months. Barajas' own suspicion of corruption in the city government led him to run for office in the first place, he told CNN.

A recall election for Mayor Lopez, Mayor Pro-Tem Mata and Councilman Rodriguez is expected to be announced this week.

CONVERSATIONS