New Area Near Old Air Force Base Has Contaminated Water - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/10/03

New Area Near Old Air Force Base Has Contaminated Water

A state environmental agency notes a potential risk of it spreading to residential wells. So what's being done about it and are people in danger?

Domestic water wells have been treated by the Air Force Real Property Agency. Any well that's for home use is required to have a series of filters. It's to ensure the contaminates stay out of the mouths of your family.

For years, Reese A.F.R.P. has been charged with containing a plume of contaminated ground water that stretches half a mile wide and three miles long around the old Reese Air force Base.

The contaminant? Trichloroethylene, or TCE. It was used as a degreaser on aircraft from the 1940's until the base closed 57 years later. TCE can cause liver and kidney damage and harm unborn babies if consumed, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

But, in a letter dated January 17th, 2003, the TCEQ wrote to the A.F.R.P. "...The presence of numerous domestic water wells in the area just north of Erskine and the potential for these wells to be impacted if the ground water plume is not stabilized." In other words, the contamination has spread. Reese environmental officials say to at least 21 new domestic wells.

So why is there a new area of bad water if it's been contained and controlled all these years? Reese Site Manager Paul Carroll says it's because farmers are using the bad water from the Ogalala aquifer for irrigation. "There's a large cotton field where we're standing to the east. The farmers pull out somewhere between 600 to 900 gallons a minute during summer. It's a big draw out from the aquifer. This is an area where it's difficult to get control of so we'll need to install monitoring wells," said Carroll.

Carroll says they are working with TCEQ to get the plume or area of contamination contained again. "The area of concern has been well defined through sampling. All the wells out there in a 36 square mile radius around the base have been sampled and checked to see if they've been contaminated. Those that are contaminated have been retrofitted with filters to ensure that the water is OK to drink," said Jeff Bertl, TCEQ Field Investigator.

While Carroll says it may take the A.F.R.P another 30 years to get rid of the TCE in the aquifer, the TCEQ assures NewsChannel 11 the water is safe to drink.

But for homeowner Mike Kennon, he'll keep requesting the bottled water Reese is providing to those 21 homes that have now been effected. "My main concern are my kids. But the government has bent over backwards to take care of us. They put us on water filters, they check our wells, they furnish us bottled water," said Kennon.

Reese is working right away to develop monitoring wells in the area. Residents continue to request bottled water just to be on the safe side.

If you're moving to the Reese area or might be drilling a new water well, the TCEQ recommends that you have the well checked. And if it's contaminated, Reese is required to fit the wells with the carbon filters.

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