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Why did the tap water in this Venezuela municipality turn black?

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By Camille Simonet
Why did the tap water in this Venezuela municipality turn black?

Inhabitants of San Diego, Venezuela, woke up to an unpleasant surprise on Wednesday: after seven days of power outages, the supply was restored but their tap water was black and thick, like oil.

Pictures and videos were quickly shared on Twitter and caused outrage.

One of the clips, shared by Alba Presutto showed a jet of black liquid coming out of her tap.

She explained to Euronews that her uncle called her at 5.30 in the morning to warn her about the state of the water, which lasted about 30 minutes before it returned to normal.

The people in charge of Hidrocentro water plant informed Presutto that this was due to the reopening of some pipes that had not been working for 6 to 7 years, which had not been cleaned.

However the state, which is responsible for the provision of drinking water, later announced via an official Twitter account for the water plant that the incident was down to an act of vandalism at one of its facilities.

Mayor of San Diego Léon Jurado referred to the statement as a lie and described said those responsible for the Hidrocentro plant were "irresponsible".

"They (Hidrocentro officials) reaffirmed that there was a human error and system failure with the main tank, which supplies the pumping station located in the Castillito area and serves our population," Jurado told Euronews after he spoke to several workers from the state-run company after he received complaints on Wednesday.

"The pump was not switched off and sucked the bottom of the tank where there are sediment deposits -- it is not highly-contaminated water but it is the product of all the sediments that are deposited after the water is kept in the pond, "Jurado added.

Lion Jury, Mayor of San Diego, said the state was "lying continuously to the people and still using the argument of sabotage so as not to assume responsibilities from the National Government."

"What really happened here is a lack of investment and maintenance to maintain a quality public service," he added.

Hidrocentro workers informed Jurado that the order to publish the statement came from Caracas, pointing out it was due to "a political issue".

"It came directly from the national government, according to the employers. They did not even agree to publish it. The people in charge of the San Diego plant were willing to take responsibility but they did not have a choice."

Among the 165 thousand inhabitants who live in the municipality, approximately 130,000 were affected by dirty water.

Despite the efforts of Hidrocentro, San Diego residents continued to report that the supply of water was irregular.

The black water was not related to recent blackouts in the area, according to Presutto, as power returned on Monday, while the water incident happened on Wednesday.

Jurado said there are areas which have been suffering from a lack of water for 40 days.

Euronews has contacted the state-run Hidrocentro water plant for comment.