LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - Around the former Reese Air Force Base the U.S. Air Force has found at least 42 drinking water wells to be contaminated with potentially dangerous compounds and some of those are within Lubbock city limits. This gives those residents an option not available to others dealing with the perfluorinated compounds at or above protective levels.
While they may have been annexed or developed without city water, officials say at any time homeowners in the city limits have the option to connect to Lubbock water. In fact, officials tell KCBD NewsChannel 11 that at a February 15 information session, the Air Force discussed the potential to pay for those water lines.
"The City of Lubbock does not have a problem with them paying that amount so that the water will be available for some of those people potentially impacted by some of those contaminates they were discussing," Aubrey Spear, City of Lubbock Director of Water Utilities said.
Around 200 bases across the United States were sampled to investigate the emerging contaminates, which were found to come from the fire fighting foam used on those bases. At Reese Center, the compounds were first found in the Ogallala Aquifer in November, a major drinking source for area residents.
According to the Air Force, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were at or above the EPA's lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for drinking water in private wells in the area of Reese AFB. According to EPA health advisories, exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels can cause adverse health effects, including pregnancy issues or risk to newborns, cancer, liver effects, immune effects, thyroid effects and other effects.
"We are not drawing upon any of the ground water here around the City of Lubbock as part of our water supply," Spear said. "Our water supply is treated and monitored heavily, daily and hourly to make sure we have high quality water that's being distributed to our citizens. The water that we are drinking is safe."
Since the discovery was made in November, the Air Force began requesting and testing wells in a one-mile, down gradient radius around the base. However, at a meeting with residents in February, officials said they will expand further and ask more residents if they can test their wells.
"The City of Lubbock is always concerned for the safety of our citizens," Spear said. "We're watching this closely as the regulatory agencies take the lead. We have safe water. Our water supply is safe and we want to make sure all of our citizens have the opportunity to use the safe water here in this area."
For affected residents, including those using wells in city limits, the Air Force is providing bottled water. Spear tells KCBD NewsChannel 11 the manmade contaminates are found in at a very small level.
"It's like a drop in an Olympic size swimming pool," Spear said. "It's very small concentrations that are hard for current technology lab equipment to even detect and duplicate."
Combine that with the underground structure of the Ogallala Aquifer and Spear says its unlikely the contaminates will spread outside of the area around Reese.
"If you've thought of a large aquarium, filled with sand and gravel and then put water in it, that's what our groundwater looks like down there," Spear said. "It's moving through the gravel and sands. So, it moves very slowly. It takes decades and decades to get very far at all."
If you are in that boundary East of the base and have not have your well sampled, contact Paul Carroll, at 806-885-5010 or at email@example.com.