MIDLAND COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Contaminated groundwater in Midland has tested below federal drinking water standards, prompting residents to demand an explanation - and a more sustainable fix than daily handouts of bottled water.
The affected area is a stretch of land south of Interstate 20 and north of West County Road 118, between Pease Trail and South County Road 1221, according to Baker Hughes representatives.
Tests conducted in July detected dichloroethene (1,1-DCE), trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE) in the groundwater.
"Concentrations are low, in the parts per billion range, but [still higher than] drinking water standards defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," Baker Hughes said in a letter to residents.
According to information published on EPA.gov, "some people" who drink water with excessive levels of the chemicals may face liver problems and increased cancer risks after "many years" of consumption.
"The sources of all identified chemicals remain unclear," said Lauren Silverman, a local operations director for Baker Hughes. "We are still working with our industrial neighbors to identify the sources of all those chemicals. We want to make sure we're not waiting to figure out all those details. We're [going] ahead and addressing what we can [by providing] for that immediate need of bottled water [and] shower-head filters."
A tent staffed by Baker Hughes representatives, health experts and toxicology analysts has been set up behind the Solid Rock Fellowship Church at I-20 and South County Road 1223. Residents are encouraged to stop by the tent - labeled "Family Assistance Center" - for free bottled water, shower filters and community Q&A sessions to address "any questions they may have."
However, resident Bryan Butler told NewsWest 9 "handouts aren't helping anyone" and demanded an immediate solution.
"These guys are trying to kiss butt," he said of the Baker Hughes representatives. "They're giving us water and it's nice and all... but what's it going to do for us? Our water is contaminated, my babies are at risk [and I feel] our lives are at risk... Talking to us is going to do nothing. They need to figure out where the contamination is coming from and fix the problem. [Handing out bottled water] is insufficient in my eyes."
Butler, his wife and their two young children have been drinking and cooking with local groundwater for years, along with most of their neighbors.
"We're just now realizing that this has been going on?" he asked. "How long has this been going on? What else aren't they telling us?"
Silverman said Baker Hughes had been aware of the groundwater chemicals since 1990, but saw no reason to pursue further testing until contamination levels unexpectedly increased "several months ago."
"We continue to work in conjunction with the Texas Center for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as part of its ongoing groundwater quality assessment in [the] area south of I-20," she said in an emailed statement to NewsWest 9. "We continue to take proactive steps to safeguard the health of residents and by sampling water from wells and homes. We will be providing results to individual residents and property owners directly and sharing these results with TCEQ. In the meantime, we will continue to provide bottled water and shower filters to local residents while sample results are pending."
Results are expected within 30 days of sampling.