December 4, 2018

New Mexico: Air Force is violating state water law at Cannon AFB

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Cannon AFB courtesy photo: VIRIN: 101010-F-YG475-003.JPG

At Cannon Air Force Base, the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group provides combat support and base sustainment services to ensure mission readiness.

The state of New Mexico says the U.S. Air Force needs to immediately develop a plan to protect dairies from chemicals at Cannon Air Force Base.

The New Mexico Environment Department announced today that Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis is violating the state’s Water Quality Act and related ground and surface water regulations. The state agency issued a Notice of Violation, which requires the Air Force to create a plan to protect local dairies from contamination in the short-term and also evaluate the possibility of installing systems to treat contaminated water supplies.

If the military fails to comply, New Mexico can issue civil penalties of up to $15,000 per day for each violation.

Chemicals from fire fighting training activities have been found in the groundwater below Cannon, and in groundwater wells off-base.

As NM Political Report wrote earlier this year, this summer, the Air Force announced it was sampling groundwater wells for traces of harmful chemicals found within firefighting foam used at the base from the 1970s until last year.

The testing was part of a nationwide effort by the military after the U.S. Department of Defense announced that activities at 126 military bases had contaminated groundwater with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of human-made chemicals, often referred to as PFAS’s, that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

In response to new understandings about the chemicals and their effects, in 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established new guidelines for exposure. The human health advisory set the lifetime drinking water exposure limit at 70 parts per trillion, or 70 nanograms per liter.

At Cannon Air Force Base, groundwater monitoring wells detected concentrations exceeding 26,000 nanograms per liter. And in off-base wells, including those that supply drinking water to dairies, they detected levels ranging from 25 to 1,600 nanograms per liter.

According to an October press release from the state:

Residents are encouraged to call the NMDOH Epidemiology and Response Division’s at (505) 827-0006 for consultation about the results of their well water test, or for information about how to get their well water tested.

Se recomienda a los residentes que llamen a la línea de llamadas de la División de Epidemiología y Respuesta de NMDOH al (505) 827-0006 para consultar sobre los resultados del análisis de agua de su pozo o para obtener información sobre cómo realizar un análisis de agua de su pozo.