Friday, December 23, 2011

Responsible Parties Elude Detection in Midessa Superfund Site

By: Duane Craig

The Midessa Groundwater Plume Superfund site could be an example of why it’s not wise to turn a blind eye to what your neighbors do on their own property. The list of environmental issues that results could be long, and you might be affected far more than you can imagine.

The Midessa Superfund site is in Midland County, Texas, between the city limits of Midland and Odessa. This is a contaminated groundwater plume that is centered on County Road 1290, between Interstate 20 and Business Route 20. Two public water wells serving a local RV park tested positive for elevated levels of chlorinated solvents. By the time the first round of sampling was completed, the water supplies for 168 people were contaminated with the solvents. Many of those wells had multiple solvents including tetrachloroethene, or PCE, trichloroethene, or TCE, cis 1,1-dichloroethene and 1-1-dichlorothane. The RV park wells and eight of the private wells had concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs. Five of the wells had solvents at levels above the cancer-screening concentrations, while another nine tested positive but below health-based concentrations, according to the EPA’s site narrative.

Initially, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality installed filtration systems on the affected wells, except for one. That well owner refused to have a system installed. Texas then asked the EPA to include the site on the National Priorities, List and it was added in September 2007.

In mid-2011, environmental authorities had monitoring wells along with vapor-monitoring wells and a battery of air-sparging tests completed. That process revealed three contamination plumes in the shallow groundwater of the Trinity and Ogallala aquifers. Water in this area lies between 30 feet and 105 feet from soil surface.

Attempts to identify the source of the contamination have failed because direct evidence has not been found. Beside a chemical company that burned in 2000, there are also oil-related businesses and a private piece of land with a caliche pit. Local residents said they saw people bury drums in the pit along with undisclosed soils and other debris, according to the Hazard Ranking System Documentation Record for the site.

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