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Kirtland Says More Info Needed Before Cleanup

Rita Daniels


Kirtland Air Force Base will not submit a plan to pump and treat contaminated groundwater at the end of this month as expected.

Officials from Kirtland and the state say they still need more information before moving forward on the cleanup of an underground fuel spill that has contaminated Albuquerque’s aquifer.

A pump and treat plan was supposed to be completed as soon as September 30, but Kirtland announced last week it would be fine-tuning the plan before starting the groundwater extraction.

“We still don’t have a lot of information,” said Jill Turner, communications coordinator for the New Mexico Environment Department. “I know it seems like a lot of putting things off to get more information but we’re dealing with a system that we can’t see.”  

Still, some local officials are repeating concerns about the cleanup timeline.

“Time is clearly of the essence,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Art de la Cruz who represents the South Valley and also serves as Vice Chair of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Board. “Every day that we delay the cleanup is another day that the spill gets bigger and has the greater potential for contaminating wells.”

Estimates of when the contamination could reach one of Albuquerque’s drinking water wells vary from 5 years to 30 years.

New Mexico Environmental Health Director Tom Blaine is working with Kirtland. He says he anticipates having a cleanup plan developed within a year.

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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