Air Force begins field investigation into extent of Reese water contamination, nears agreement with Lubbock for municipal source

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 6:27 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Air Force will spend the next two years gathering water samples near its former base, now known as Reese Technology Center, to better understand the extent of water contamination west of Lubbock. Officials say this property assessment investigation is required by government regulators.

“Since we’ve got everybody on safe drinking water, we’re moving forward into this step of doing the investigation,” Air Force Program Manager Paul Carroll said. “As part of that investigation, we’re installing approximately 25 wells in the next four to six weeks to understand the nature and extent of the contamination in the groundwater, to delineate that and to make sure that we understand the migration pathways in the groundwater.”

READ MORE: Air Force says water issues at Reese Center should be resolved by end of June

In early 2018, the Air Force notified the public that PFOS and PFOA compounds were found in groundwater around the base above EPA and TCEQ limits. According to Carroll, nearly half of the 500 domestic water wells sampled were found to be above that limit and water treatment systems have been provided to those residents.

Now, the Air Force is nearing an agreement with the City of Lubbock to provide the municipal water source to 80 residential wells within city limits.

Officials hope that agreement is complete at the end of September.

“We are investing in the infrastructure, and we’ll get people connected,” Carrol said. “But, just like anyone else who lives within the city limits, they’ll be responsible for their water bills.”

READ MORE: Air Force spends $8 million in year after Reese water contamination announcement

These 25 new wells, within a 12-mile radius mostly east and southeast of the base, are being drilled for environmental monitoring.

“They’re two-inch wells,” Carroll said. “There’ll be three different intervals, per well, that we will be sampling. They’re strictly for monitoring. We install the wells, develop those wells, and then we’ll have sampling teams out sampling those, sending the samples in for analysis to determine which level, vertically and horizontally, which levels are impacted and how far that contamination goes.”

While crews continue to install the wells, Carroll expects some results to begin coming in within about 30 to 45 days.

“Our contractor is going to be reviewing those results, analyzing them and determining which wells are impacted,” Carrol said. “Then we’ll have a report that will come out we’ll submit to share with TCEQ and EPA that will identify which wells are contaminated, how far the contamination went, and then make recommendations for future drilling. As part of this whole process, we have to do groundwater investigations. We also do source area investigations on the former base where we’ll determine soils, surface water and sediment levels, and we’ll be sampling those types of media as part of this overall investigation.”

Carroll estimates the Air Force has invested $23 million toward providing alternate or treated water sources to nearby residents and is budgeting another $24 million this year for that same effort and to this investigation.

“That will guide our understanding of where the contamination is and how to focus on remediating that contamination in the long term,” Carroll said. “This investigation should be done in a little bit over two years. So after that time, the next phase is to start the remedy selection and installation of the remedy itself.”

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