Odessa Waste Water Plant Workers Catch Illegal Dumping

Odessa Waste Water Plant Workers Catch Illegal Dumping

By: Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Treating sewage water is a true science. The same process, with the same results, every time. At least that's what should happen if everything is going right. But that being said, it's easy to detect when something isn't normal. And something smelled a bit off at the waste water plant in Odessa.

"It was a sweet smell. To me it smelled like Pine Sol," Assistant Director of Utilities for Odessa, Ben Jordan said. "I was like, 'Wow someone's been doing a lot of cleaning.' Then it dawned on me, we ain't cleaning, we standing outside," he said.

Jordan said the smell is from a foreign chemical that was dumped into the sewer.
"So we got a sample of the water, sent it in to the lab and found traces of Xylene in it. And that's not normal in raw sewage."
Officials believe it started sometime around January, because that's when workers at the plant could see something wrong because a rocky sludge, kind of resembling hardened lava, started forming on top of the murky, flowing waste water.

Xylene is a clear liquid, so it could pass for water, but it's a hazardous chemical often used in the oil field.

"It's a very bad chemical, it's flammable, it can give you respiratory failures, kidney failures," Jordan said. And when it's brought into raw sewage, it kills the bacteria that's vital to treat waste water and clogs up the process.

One of the main reasons it was probably found in the plant is because Xylene is a hazardous chemical that is significantly expensive to dispose of. "So whoever decided to do put it down the sewer didn't want to pay that extra cost," Jordan said. 

Now, Ector County has filed a lawsuit against Roywell Services in connection with the illegal dumping. Criminal and civil cases are pending.

Although it doesn't harm people's health, they do feel some effects. "

The city was getting fined. And anytime we have to pay money, that's tax payer's dollars. That's not money that just grows on a tree," he said.

The utilities department has not passed several permit requirements over the past few years because of similar issues. But they say the recent dumping and those responsible are not tied to any that might have occurred in the past. They don't have a way of fixing the problem, but say over time the bacteria will grow again and the process will get back to normal. NewWest 9
has reached out to Roywell Services for a statement but have not heard back. Multiple agencies are still investigating the case.