Pollution of underground water in Levelland, Texas, and vicinity
Tonroy, Lucky L
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Levelland, Texas, county seat of Hockley County, is 30 miles due west of Lubbock, Texas, and lies in the southern part of the Great Plains physiographic province known as the South Plains. The primary source of water, used extensively for irrigation and municipal purposes, is supplied by the Ogallala group, a clean, coarse sand and gravel of late Tertiary age. The water in this hydrologically isolated group has accumulated entirely from precipitation. Very little water flows off the South Plains, as it is either dissipated by evapotranspiration or lost by seepage into the ground through thousands of depression ponds which dot the surface of this area. The importance of maintaining the quality of this great supply of water cannot be overemphasized. Recent litigation, in Hockley County, revealed that these supplies of ground water were being polluted by oil well disposal wastes placed in open earthern pits. This pollution study was made to determine whether there has been pollution and to find its source. It deals with water from wells in Levelland and vicinity which had previously been chemically analyzed. New analyses of water from these wells were made and the results were compared for signs of chemical pollution. Previous work, as far as known, has not been done in this area on the pollution problem. It was, therefore, necessary to make a surface contour map and a water table map for calculating the hydraulic gradient. Chemical pollution was not found within the Levelland city water supply, but pollution was found in an irrigation well west of the city. Based on available data, it seems that the source of pollution was a playa lake formerly used as a disposal area for oil refining wastes. At the computed rate of movement of underground water, the water in city well No. 5 may become polluted by 1973. Since, however, the disposal of wastes has been discontinued, it is possible the pollution may be so diluted within the strata, by 1973, that the effect will be slight on the quality of the water.