By Wyatt Goolsby
MIDLAND COUNTY - It's the element of life: Water. However, having a healthy source of it hasn't been easy for dozens of Midland County families. That's after a Chromium contamination was first discovered nearly seven months ago. Now, state officials say they're hoping to be closer to finding how widespread the contamination really is.
"It's a slow process. I mean, here it is since the first of April. We still have high Chromium levels, and you know, we've had our water tested. We've had a lot of talk about having this done and that done, but nothing has been done," Janet Null, who has contaminated well water, said.
There's still a feeling of frustration for Midland County residents south of the Interstate near Cotton Flat Road, including Null. She and many others in the last six months have had to change how they use their well water after learning about the chromium 6 contamination.
"Well since we've found it out, we limit our exposure to the water in our bath," Null explained. "Of course, we don't drink the water, we use bottle water, which we did that before, but the main concern is our animals. You know, we still have to use water. We have dogs, we have cats."
However, Null said she's stuck. She couldn't get a filter from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality like her neighbors because her Chromium count was just under the 100 parts per billion limit.
"Well, I was pretty upset," Null said. "I even asked the TCEQ. I said, 'well what if we were 99?,' and they said they still wouldn't place the filter until 100."
State officials said since they started their investigation, they are constantly testing and re-testing water within a nearly one mile radius.
"It does appear that we have it pretty well identified," Robert Patton, manager for the Superfund Section of the TCEQ, explained. "I mean that's why we do ongoing sampling. If we just sampled it one time and didn't sample it again for a few years, we wouldn't be able to identify whether or not the plume is actually migrating."
Brent Barron, with the local Xenco Laboratories (Environmental Labs of Texas), told NewsWest 9 during the summer he was constantly sampling well water in Midland County, and found some residents with three to four times the Chromium limit.
"Somebody would've actually had to put that in the water," Barron explained. "It's just not going to leach out of a rock underneath the ground in the aquifer. It's the product of somebody putting that in the water whether they knew they were doing it or they didn't know they were doing it."
So, NewsWest 9 decided to do a couple tests of our own to see how much the amount of Chromium will change over time. Our first sample from West County Road 114, in the middle of the plume, showed 338 parts per billion, which is almost four times the drinking water limit.
The second is Janet Null's home on West County Road 117. This time, the results came out just over the 100 parts per billion required for the state to provide a filter. Null has her doubts about the filters themselves, but said she'll accept one for her health.
"Like I say maintaining them and everything else is a hassle, but I would, I probably would," Null said. "Just to keep the levels down for my family's sake."
Many neighbors like Janet Null said they are thankful for efforts from the TCEQ, but wish that the process could be a lot faster. At this point, the state has tested 240 wells, but do not have a source of the contamination. State inspectors will likely have another extended look in February, and they said that's when they will look for a possible source.