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Notice to not drink Terlingua water remains in effect as water managers await test results

Travis Bubenik
Marfa Public Radio
A view of the Terlingua area in May 2022.

Water managers in the Terlingua area continue to warn the public to not drink or use tap water for anything other than flushing toilets amid concerns about possible contamination.

The advisory, originally issued on Oct. 14, applies to residents and businesses served by the Study Butte Water Supply Corporation.

In updates posted to its website Friday morning, the corporation said water samples were taken to a lab in Odessa on Thursday and were still being processed. Testing will have to confirm the water is safe before the “do not use” advisory can be lifted.

Bill Gilles, Study Butte Water’s board president, said in an interview the test results could come Friday afternoon or early next week.

The warning that the water could be unsafe for everything from drinking to cooking and bathing was the culmination of a series of problems with the corporation’s two drinking water wells.

The water supplier, a nonprofit entity, said in notices over the past two weeks that its water supply had fallen to dangerously low levels because of one well briefly going offline from a power outage and another well that was already down and awaiting repairs.

Repairs on the damaged well have since been completed, Study Butte Water said in updates posted to its website Friday morning.

In its Friday update, water managers shared a lengthy timeline of events leading up to last weekend’s advisory about possible contamination. Study Butte Water also shared summaries of a Q&A session held during a public meeting on Thursday night, in which water managers outlined their plans to improve the area’s water system going forward.

“The projects are going to be completed in order of need and affordability,” the corporation wrote. “We will complete them as we have the monies to do so.”

The water supplier’s representatives have in recent days balked at the suggestion that their water was ever unsafe to drink, stressing that the “do not consume” notice was initially prompted by concerns from regulators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about trucks that were used to temporarily haul water in from surrounding communities when the well problems began.

“I still brush my teeth with it every morning,” Bill Gilles, the water supplier’s board president, told the Big Bend Sentinel earlier this week.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.