News 8 Investigates: Dangerously 'hot' water in Hudson Oaks



Posted on November 20, 2009 at 11:00 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 23 at 8:51 PM

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HUDSON OAKS — Crystal clear, clean-tasting well water from the City of Hudson Oaks is enjoyed by both the people who live and work here, and also by the people who come here to shop or eat.

Much of that water is coming out of city water supply tank No. 7, which is fed by a 230-foot  well.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tests this and all public water wells regularly for contaminants as well as for radioactive elements, among them, gross alpha-particles.

According to state records, on January 31, 2007, the gross alpha reading on well No. 7 was normal: 10.6. The EPA maximum limit for safety is 15.

But six months later, the gross alpha-particle reading suddenly jumped to 40 -- nearly three times the acceptable limit.

By September 2008, the number went even higher, to 58 --  a toxicity level nearly 400 percent higher than the acceptable limit.

The drinking water for the entire City of Hudson Oaks was harboring dangerous levels of radioactive particles until March of this year.  That's when state officials notified Hudson Oaks city officials of their findings.

"Once we found out about it, we started the process of just taking that well off line," said Patrick Lawler, Director of Operations for Hudson Oaks.

The reason, according to a newsletter published by the city: "Some people who drink water containing alpha emitters in excess of the MCL [maximum contaminant level] over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer."  

So why don't Hudson Oaks residents appear to be concerned?

Parker County resident Kathy Chruscielski says she thinks she knows.  "Because the notice is buried in this report," she said, holding the annual drinking water newsletter sent out by Hudson Oaks.

Chruscielski independently monitors water quality data in the Barnett Shale, and she almost missed it.

"From what I have seen -- particularly the alpha particles -- you don't want to ingest those, and they are bone-seeking carcinogens with a 1,600 year half-life that accumulates in the tissue," Chruscielski said.  "I am not comfortable with that."

Next door to the polluted well is The New River Fellowship Church. Pastor Blayne Schorr says the city should have done more to notify residents. 

"We had no idea, and I'm not really surprised," he said. "Obviously a lot of these things the city does not want to deal with."

While city officials quickly took the contaminated well out of service, they say no other wells have been contaminated, and insist there is no cause for concern.

When asked if he would worry about drinking the contaminated water, Lawler's only response was this: "I think when we were notified, we took the well offline."

So what is the source of the uranium? That's a question that no one seems to be able to answer.

State environmental officials say the uranium is "naturally occurring" in the rock formations below the soil.

But what would account for the sudden contamination?

Some feel it must be related to natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale, a theory that News 8 will continue to explore.