Breaking down rural water woes

By Mary Coleman, Reporter, originally posted on November 11, 2016


AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) – Some residents in Potter and Randall Counties are wondering just how safe their water is, after reports of contamination remain.

It’s a scary thought to think that contaminants like gasoline, hydrocarbons, and chlorinated solvents are in ground waters in our area.

But this is the case.

15 cases of groundwater contamination in Potter County and seven cases in Randall County put us on the latest list of the Joint Groundwater Monitoring and Contamination Report.

Contaminants like gasoline, hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents are all on this list.

But how does it happen? Certain industries leave their mark.

“Those kinds of things come from either gas stations or maybe an industry like dry cleaning facilities,” says Associate Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Gary Barbee. “And it’s pretty common for those to have tanks or pipes that leak and contaminate the shallow sub-surface.”

The pollutants can’t go very far, however.

“That far down in the ground, the water doesn’t move very fast at all and the gasoline stays confined to an area usually not but a few hundred feet out from the source,” says City of Amarillo Chief Chemist David Reasoner. “So our wells are way out of town.”

Once a landowner is notified of contamination, as a precautionary measure they often undergo what’s called water remediation by pumping it out and treating it.

Because though unlikely to make its way into our homes, these contaminants can be toxic.

“Some of these are carcinogenic, can cause cancer and then can cause other health affects. So it’s good to be aware and especially if you live near a location such that is on this list,” says Barbee.

Most of our water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer, far away from where these contaminations are being found. And the city of Amarillo prides itself on how thorough and often testing is done on their water.

“We’re running 35 tests each day. And then on a weekly list, we’re running about 120 of those,” says Reasoner. “But throughout the years, we test all of the wells, which we have 125 wells, monitoring all of those.”

“On the chemical analysis of our water, we’re required to do that on a 3 year basis,” says Director of Facilities Russell Grubbs. “One of the questions I asked of David Reisner when I first came here is how often do we test our water for heavy metals, all the other constituents and he told me we do this at least every six months.”

While officials are not concerned with the purity of the water being used in these counties, they are concerned with the amount.

“We’re pumping huge amounts of water and so you know, how long that will last, their guest is from just a few years to maybe 100 years or more. And so It’s a very sensitive resource because it’s not recharging as fast as other aquifers and so basically what we have now is other aquifers and so basically what we have now is what we’re going to have for our lifetimes and probably future lifetimes.”

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