U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	2007-P-00034
Office of Inspector General	September 11,2007

At a Glance
Why We Did This Review
We conducted this review in
response to a hotline complaint
alleging that a small
community's only source of
drinking water had been
contaminated by adjacent
saltwater disposal operations.
The complaint also alleged that
Federal and State officials had
not provided assistance
obtaining safe drinking water.
In 1996, residents in a small
community in Panola County,
Texas, complained of drinking
water discoloration, stained
kitchen and bath fixtures, and
gastrointestinal problems after
consuming water. Most
residents had begun buying
bottled water or obtaining
water from relatives. Between
1996 and 2003, residents said
U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and Texas
representatives took no action
to help identify a permanent
source of safe drinking water.
In 2003, Texas found the
groundwater was contaminated
and advised residents to not use
the water for domestic
For further information,
contact our Office of
Congressional and Public
Liaison at (202) 566-2391.
To view the full report,
click on the following link:
20070911 -2007-P-00034.pdf
Catalyst for Improving the Environment
Complete Assessment Needed to Ensure
Rural Texas Community Has Safe Drinking Water
What We Found
A Panola County resident first alleged in 1996 that drinking water for residents in
a small community in the county was contaminated. However, State officials did
not confirm the problem until 2003, when they told the residents to not use their
water for domestic purposes. In September 2005, EPA began providing, and
continues to provide, bottled water to the affected residents. EPA and the State
have taken additional steps to assess the source, severity, and extent of
In March 2005 the State requested that Basic Energy Services, the site operator,
assess groundwater, and in October 2005 the State requested that Basic Energy
Services install additional monitoring wells. In March 2006, because Basic
Energy Services" performance was inadequate, the State indicated it would take
enforcement action. However, we found no evidence that the State took
enforcement action. Although the State has installed additional groundwater
monitoring wells in the area, the full extent and source of contamination is still not
known. Region 6 is confident that the contamination does not originate from
injected waste. Even so, the State has initiated additional assessment action under
State programs.
Responding to a petition filed by Panola County residents in November 2006,
EPA is conducting an assessment to determine if the site qualifies for cleanup
under EPA's Superfund program. Further, in its June 29, 2007, response to our
draft report, EPA said that it intends to use removal action funds to pay for
constructing a water line that will provide the residents with access to the Panola
Bethany Water Supply Corporation. EPA decided to evaluate and fully assess
the contaminated groundwater under its Superfund program, as well as to have
the residents connected to the water system. In response to our suggestion that
more frequent communication with the community would be beneficial, in 2007,
the Region acted to keep the community informed. Region 6 stated they have
held community meetings and Superfund staff have met with the citizens
individually in preparation for additional site investigations. We commend the
Region for these communication activities and encourage their continuance.