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Updated: Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2000 at 23:09 CST

State agency not promptly told about Pantex leak Special to the Star-Telegram AUSTIN -- The U.S. Department of Energy failed to properly notify a Texas commission when solvent was discovered leaking into the groundwater near the department's Pantex weapons facility, state officials said yesterday. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission sent out a notice of enforcement to the federal agency yesterday outlining how it should respond to the leak.

Unacceptable levels of an industrial solvent called trichloroethylene, or TCE, were first detected in groundwater near Pantex in May 1999, said Brad Jones, the commission's regional director in Amarillo.

But the Energy Department, which is primarily responsible for monitoring the area, did not report the leak to the Texas commission until March 2 -- 10 months later, Jones said.

"Their permit requires that they notify any noncompliance within 24 hours verbally, then follow with a written notification in 10 working days," he said.

So far, the solvent doesn't appear to threaten Amarillo's drinking water, Jones added. But the spill marks the first time that contaminants from the plant have reached the Ogallala Aquifer. The May water sample from the Ogallala showed TCE levels at 8 parts per billion, which exceeds the EPA standard of 5 parts per billion for drinking water.

-- mike in houston (, March 15, 2000

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