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Air Force: Kirtland jet fuel cleanup to continue for years

From left, Mark Correll, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure, and John Henderson, the assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force for installations, environment, and energy, listen as Trent Simpler, the Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the bulk fuels facility, explains the process of the groundwater treatment facility to at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., on March 26, 2018.

J.D. STRONG/U.S. AIR FORCE

By SCOTT TURNER | Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal | Published: April 21, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Mark Correll said efforts to rid groundwater of jet fuel contamination at Kirtland Air Force Base would continue for years to come, and he noted that there are no funding issues with the project.

He told the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority on Wednesday that funding “fluctuates” from year to year based on project needs. The Air Force has spent $125 million so far toward the cleanup, he said.

Correll said the Air Force remained committed “to make sure no one in this city or on Kirtland Air Force Base will drink water that is EDB (ethylene dibromide) contaminated.”

He said the military branch “met or exceeded all of the commitments” it made when he first appeared before the authority in 2014. Correll said no fuel leak contamination has been found in wells used to detect problems or drinking water wells, noting that drinking water wells are tested monthly.

The leak was discovered in 1999 after jet fuel was found on the surface near a base fueling facility. It eventually was found that holes had worn in underground pipes used to carry jet fuel from delivery tankers to storage tanks and that millions of gallons had been leaking slowly, undetected, for decades.

Correll said the Air Force had stopped and has started to collapse the 7,000-foot EDB plume caused by the contamination. He showed images of the collapse to the water authority.

“The pump-and-treat interim measure that we put into place to stop the EDB plume north of Ridgecrest Drive has had a significant effect,” Corrall said.

He said there were 159 wells monitoring the plume.

“They have, in our opinion, determined the length, width and depth of the plume,” Corrall said.

He said 24 sentinel wells have been installed between the plume and drinking water wells “and none of them have detected any contamination.”

Correll said 15 new wells were installed to address the rise in the water table, which submerged some of the monitoring wells. He said there were 43 functional water table wells.

He said the rise in the water table did not affect the plume footprint.

To date, Correll said 615 million gallons of groundwater had been treated. He said 86% of the mass of EDB has been removed from the target area north of Ridgecrest Road.

Water authority board member and Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins asked Correll how long the pump-and-treat measure would be in place.

“If the question is, ‘Are we going to shut the pump-and-treat measure down?’ we are not going to shut it down,” Correll said, adding that the measure would be in place until it is no longer needed. “But you don’t want to run it forever.”

He said monitoring would continue if the decision was made that the pump-and-treat measure was no longer needed.

Hart Stebbins also asked if extraction wells would be used for the plume south of Ridgecrest Drive. Correll said that would be determined in the Corrective Measures Evaluation, or CME. “It could be that, or it could be something else.”

Correll said he would like to have the CME started in 2021. He said it could take a couple of years to complete. Correll said the CME would be completed after a period of public comment and a “robust investigation.”

Correll informed the water authority of two pilot programs that have been started, one of which addresses the soil-vapor contamination. He said more than 4,800 tons of soil had been removed from the source area.

The water authority is expected to respond to Correll’s report at its meeting in May. New Mexico Environment Department officials are expected to be invited to the meeting.

There will also be a public meeting hosted by the NMED on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the African American Performing Arts Center, at 310 San Pedro NE, to update the public on the cleanup.

©2019 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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