EPA finds near unsafe levels of chromium in some Odessa groundwater

ODESSA -- The Environmental Protection Agency presented to Ector County Commissioners Monday morning the findings of a groundwater study on the Odessa Chromium #1 Superfund site.

Superfund sites are polluted locations placed on the National Priorities list for the EPA to conduct long-term clean-up of the hazardous material.

There are four Superfund sites in Ector County and two in Midland.

The site the EPA is concerned about ranges from 43rd Street to 48th Street in Odessa.

The chromium levels in wells at 42 homes and businesses are “close to unsafe levels” according to EPA officials.

Chromium is an odorless and tasteless metallic element that is found naturally is things like soil and plants.

It is a human carcinogen that has been shown to cause lung cancer and respiratory track issues, according to the EPA website.

The agency presentation outlined the need for installing a water line.

The Environmental Protection Agency allows up to 0.1 milligram of Chromium per liter in drinking water.

The Chief of the Arkansas and Texas Superfund Section, Carlos Sanchez, said one location exceeded the drinking water standards.

“There was one location that exceeded our drinking water standards and we checked with the homeowner, and they’re not drinking that water. So we know that the potential is there for other residents to potentially be exposed to the contaminated groundwater,” Sanchez said.

One resident, Clarence Hull, has lived on 48th street since 1998. Hull’s children and grandchildren live in the neighborhood.

“Well, we’re all tight knit out here. So it’s kind of concerning, ‘cause you got the little ones runnin’ around and you gotta make sure they don’t drink it,” Hull said.

Since moving to the neighborhood more than 20 years ago, Hull’s been careful using groundwater.

“Strictly for watering the yard and laundry that’s about it. You know, you gotta shower, but that’s all,” Hull said.

With no city water, only well water, options are limited.

“Buy the bottled water for cookin’ and drinkin’ so no well water in the tummy,” Hull said.

But other residents, might not have a choice when it comes to chromium in their water.

“The older folks, they probably do. 'Cause with them being on a limited budget, they might not be able to afford the bottled water,” Hull said.

Hull has known about the chromium level concerns since moving in. But recent reports raise concern.

“It’s quite concerning, because then you wonder is it even safe to use for animals? Can your dog drink it?” he said.

Even though Hull said they’ve been waiting for city water for years, he’s excited about the future.

“They have marked the streets where they want to run the lines. So that’s a positive step there,” Hull said.

The EPA said they will pay for the water line extension and the connection to private residences. And the city will install the water meter.

The agency said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will match 10 percent of the cost and they will pay 90 percent. There was no mention of how much the project will cost and what the county might be expected to pay.

All of the municipal water systems are subject to testing once a year, as required by the EPA.

The results of that testing is in the city’s water quality report.

Water quality reports can be found online.