State issues violation notice over Aledo's radioactive water levels

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by BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on November 24, 2009 at 2:59 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 24 at 12:12 PM

Contaminated water

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ALEDO --  A News 8 investigation revealed toxic test results in the well that provides drinking water for the small Parker County town of Hudson Oaks.

We now know that Hudson Oaks isn't the only town with a water problem.

Nearby Aledo has received a notice of violation from state environmental officials.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent the notice out last week.

One of Aledo's water wells is continuing to register hazardous levels of radiation -- and has been for at least four years.

News 8 has also learned of another contaminated  water well just a few blocks away.

So what's behind it all?

Unacceptable levels of radioactivity were first  found in a city water well more than five years ago. Radioactivity in the form of gross alpha particles consistently measure in the range of 25 units. The maximum allowable level set by the Environmental Protection Agency is 15.

The water from that well is mixed with uncontaminated water from seven other wells, but it's not enough to make the water safe.

Extended exposure to elevated levels of radioactivity may increase the risk of cancer to those exposed to it.

Despite the years of elevated levels, Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall said she wishes the town had been alerted sooner than last week. "That would have been helpful, actually," she said.

Marshall said the city is responding as fast as it can to address the concerns of residents who may not even be aware their drinking water was at risk.

"As soon as we got that conclusive information from TCEQ, that was when we put together our information to post on our Web site, to send to the media, and to get to our residents that are affected," Marshall said.

The city is already blending the contaminated well water with larger quantities of acceptable water to minimize the risk and will switch to surface water from Fort Worth in two years.

Down at Mac and Harry's Cafe, the news did not come as a shock to Ken Vega.

"I already knew it was bad," he said. "It tastes bad;  it's full of all kinds of minerals."

"I won't drink it;  it's just not safe," added Sandra Vega. "I have filters on my showers."

But the contamination is not just at one well in Parker County.

A mobile home park in Aledo has also registered elevated levels of radiation over the past few years.

A few miles up the road in Hudson Oaks, a well contaminated by radioactive particles had to be shut down earlier this year after testing revealed gross alpha particles measuring nearly four times the acceptable limit.

State officials said the particles are naturally occurring and isolated.

Parker County resident Kathy Chruscielski, an environmental advocate, says she still has questions. "I am worried about it because of the levels that we are seeing, and is this drilling related? No one has really looked into this," she said. "Should somebody be looking into this?  Someone should look into this."

So is anyone looking into it?

If so, it would be the responsibility of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. But at this point, the Commission is downplaying the significance of the contamination,  again saying it is just naturally occurring.

We'll have more on that -- and information about other contaminated wells -- in the coming days.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com     
 

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