Monday, December 19, 2011

Midland Chromium Contamination Baffles Environmental Authorities

By: Duane Craig

Just off I-20 in Midland, Texas, there’s a mysterious plume of chromium groundwater contamination, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality claims it can’t find the source. The plume seems to be centered where County Road 112 and County Road 1205 intersect, and it extends at least 1.25 miles, laying below 260 acres, according to the TCEQ.

Chromuim contamination sources still unknown

Of 235 water wells that have been sampled to date, 45 have been fitted with anion-exchange filtration systems because of contamination by the chemical above the maximum contaminant level of 100 parts per billion. Total chromium concentrations fluctuate widely in the sampled wells, and the TCEQ claims that is not unusual given the dynamics of the two aquifers involved – the Ogallala and the Edward-Trinity. No other contaminants have been found, even though the wells have been tested for volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and petroleum hydrocarbons.

The current environmental issues were first discovered in April of 2009 when a resident complained of yellow water coming from a domestic well. That residence was on West County Road 112, and the well water registered 5,280 parts per billion of chromium, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s report on the site.

While the TCEQ only identifies the contaminant as chromium, the EPA specifically lists chromium and hexavalent chromium as the environmental issues at the site. There is a mix of residential and industrial uses in the area.

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