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Water in downtown Abilene Post Office still unsafe to drink

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ABILENE, Texas - Five months after lead and copper were found in the water at the downtown Abilene Post Office and Federal Courthouse, portable hand washing stations have been removed.

The metals were discovered in late March of 2016 when employees complained about discolored water.

After testing, it was determined that the problem stemmed from the building's aging pipes, which were leaching copper and iron into the water.

At that time, employees were asked not to drink the water or use the water to wash their hands. Portable hand washing stations and water coolers were brought in for employees to use.

A KTXS crew went to the post office Friday morning and observed that the hand washing stations were gone.

The United States Post Office operates on the first floor of the Federal Courthouse building and is facilitating repairs to the building's pipes. There is no date set for repairs to be completed.

Arlene A. Sanchez, a spokesperson with the USPS said the water has been ruled safe for hand washing. However, the water is still not safe to drink so water coolers are still in place.

"We are following the recommendations of our certified experts and taking the necessary actions to ensure we can supply safe drinking water for our employees and customers," Sanchez told KTXS in an email. "At this time, we continue to provide alternatives for drinking water and will do so for as long as necessary."

Copper, in high doses, can cause acute gastrointestinal issues and other chronic conditions. But it is much less toxic than lead.

Iron is also less harmful than lead and exposure to it tends to show up right away. So, permanent damage is usually avoided.

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