Corruption-ridden Texas city's new woe: undrinkable water

(AP) -- After weeks of turmoil and the arrests of all but one top city official, residents of Crystal City have a new problem: undrinkable water.

Black water came out of the pipes in homes in the tiny Texas city, where a sweeping bribery and conspiracy indictment has ensnared the recently resigned mayor and most other city leaders. Volunteers handed out donated bottles of water on Friday, as state environmental officials test the water for bacteria.

Joel Barajas - the only City Council member not facing criminal charges - told the San Antonio Express-News ( ) that he was grateful to residents elsewhere in the region who donated water. The city blamed the water problem on dirt and mud that had built up in a water tank that was flushed, according to the newspaper.

"There are caring people in Southwest Texas," said Barajas, who has been thrust into being the point person for all of the city's departments.

And to add even more to the town's woes, the Texas Education Agency said Friday that the local school district could lose its accreditation after failing to meet state standards for the third straight year.

A federal indictment released earlier this month charged the city manager, the mayor, the mayor pro tempore, a city councilman and a former councilman with taking bribes from contractors and sending city workers to help an illegal gambling operator. Another councilman is facing unrelated federal allegations that he helped smuggle Mexican immigrants into the U.S.

Mayor Ricardo Lopez resigned Friday afternoon, just days after he was arrested during a City Council meeting following a scuffle with an angry audience member - in full view of television cameras. That meeting was held to schedule a recall vote for Lopez and two City Council members.

Lopez's attorney has not returned multiple messages seeking comment.

"I feel bad talking about the little town where I grew up, but this is ridiculous," said Alicia Martinez, 33. "We need help to get it back to where it used to be."


Information from: San Antonio Express-News,

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