Cannon AFB officials: 3 wells contaminated with chemicals

Cannon Air Force Base main gate


By MADDY HAYDEN | Albuquerque Journal | Published: October 31, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Cannon Air Force Base officials announced two weeks ago that potentially carcinogenic chemicals present in an old fire-fighting foam used on base had seeped into the groundwater on and around the Clovis-area base.

Three of 25 private water wells checked were determined to contain above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for per fluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The EPA has not established a drinking water standard for the chemicals, which are also used in such non-stick materials as Teflon.

Cannon switched to a more environmentally friendly firefighting foam last year, as have many other bases.

The Air Force said in a news release last Wednesday that a 4-square-mile area near the southeastern corner of the base is likely where the most contamination is present. Concentrations in the three wells above EPA recommendations ranged from 146 parts per trillion to 1,649 parts per trillion.

The Air Force has provided alternative drinking water at those locations.

Two wells had detectable, but below recommended, levels, and the remaining 20 did not contain detectable PFAS levels.

Two of the three water sources identified as being above limits are at local dairies. Curry County is one of the state’s top dairy producers.

New Mexico Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Kristie Garcia said the EPA’s recommendations apply only to water used for human consumption.

“They are not appropriate for use in identifying risk levels for ingestion of food sources. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture has requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration immediately determine if any impacts on health exist,” Garcia wrote in an email.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., met with Clovis residents last week and said many expressed worries over human health, property values and agricultural concerns.

“Agriculture is a critical component of the local economy, and we are aware that at least two dairies are being affected by this situation and are struggling to get assistance from the Air Force,” Udall said in an emailed statement. “We need to ensure that the Air Force and Department of Defense take care of all who are impacted, both private citizens and businesses – to ensure the safe water every single family, rancher and farmer deserves.”

Udall also co-wrote a letter with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., sent to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson on Monday.

Cannon Air Force Base spokesman JP Rebello said the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, which is leading the investigation, is planning a November town hall for stakeholders that will include state and federal agencies.

©2018 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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