September 17, 2014

Udall, Heinrich, Lujan Grisham Meet with Air Force to Discuss Progress, Plan for Fuel Spill at KAFB

Air Force proposes to install extraction well and treatment system for cleanup and expand groundwater monitoring wells

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham met with U.S. Air Force Acting Assistant Secretary for Installations, Environment and Logistics Kathleen Ferguson today to follow up on key commitments the lawmakers had secured to address the impacts of a major fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) that has been affecting the base and the region since the 1950s and threatens the city's water supply.

PHOTO LINK: https://flic.kr/p/oYYLEC

At the briefing today, Acting Assistant Secretary Ferguson announced specific, measurable steps to clean up the fuel spill at Kirtland. Under the plan, which would be executed in three phases, the Air Force proposed to begin removing contaminants by installing several "pump and treat" extraction wells -- the first of which would be operational by June 2015.

The goal of the cleanup is to ensure public drinking water wells in the vicinity of the base remain safe for consumption, and to ensure that the plume is reduced in size and contaminants are brought within public health standards.

"Access to safe, clean water supplies is critical for New Mexico communities, and I'm going to keep pushing the Air Force to do everything in its power to clean up the spill," Udall said. "While I am relieved the Air Force is making meaningful progress, there is still much more to be done, and I urged Assistant Secretary Ferguson to increase efforts for cooperation with the State and our local water utility, along with an open, informed dialogue with the community. I also reiterated my request that the Air Force move quickly to work with the experts at the National Academy of Sciences to ensure the cleanup is based on the most accurate scientific and technical information."

"What we learned today from Assistant Secretary Ferguson marks an important step forward in restoring the community's trust that the Air Force is doing all it can to cleanup KAFB's major fuel spill," Heinrich said. "I am pleased with the commitments made by the Air Force, which are measurable and include timelines for completion. Safeguarding our water supply is of paramount importance to New Mexico, and I won't rest until these benchmarks are met and the spill is cleaned up."

"The briefing today is a better indication that the Air Force is planning to take more immediate steps to address the fuel spill," Lujan Grisham said. "However, significant work remains to be done. Without a robust effort and a significant and effective plan to clean up the spill, the Albuquerque community has lost faith in the Air Force's willingness to address the problem. I will continue to hold the Air Force accountable and will not be satisfied until I know that Albuquerque's water supply is safe."

Following the meeting with the New Mexico lawmakers in Washington, D.C., Air Force also briefed the New Mexico Environment Department and local community leaders in Albuquerque to discuss the proposed plan. The interim measures in the proposed plan are:

Phase 1:

Complete Air Base Wing (ABQ)/New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) agreed to milestones.

Install initial extraction well and treatment system and expand the groundwater monitoring well network to fill data gaps and complete the characterization of the EDB plume.

Complete United States Geological Survey sentinel wells and conduct hydraulics testing to inform phase 2.

Phase 2:

Design and construct expanded pump and treat system with estimated seven additional extraction wells in two stems.

Phase 3:

Operate and optimize extraction wells until plume collapses.