Air Force: Training op caused March fire in East Mountains

A training exercise on Kirtland Air Force based ignited the early March fire in the East Mountains that spread across 200 acres. An investigation by the 277th Air Base Wing Safety showed the Piñon Juniper Fire was started by a ground burst simulator. Like smoke grenades, ground burst simulators are used to prepare military personnel for scenarios and sounds they might encounter in combat. James Fisher with Kirtland Public Affairs said an interdisciplinary team has since developed and implemented new guidelines for training with smoke canisters, diversionary devices and ground burst simulators during times of high fire risk. “Training procedures have been amended to ensure that risk associated with fire hazard conditions requires substitutions with non-hazardous equipment or omission of certain training activities,” according to Fisher.

NM Environment Review: ‘Breakdown’ in KAFB leak partnership, plus climate and Borderlands

If you want to be ahead of the curve, sign up to receive our New Mexico Environment Review email on Thursday mornings. -John Fleck is no longer with the Albuquerque Journal, but he just can’t let go of the news. On Wednesday, he published a short piece on his blog about the “breakdown” in the partnership between Kirtland Air Force Base and the New Mexico Environment Department and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. The Air Force is responsible for the leakage of more than 24 million gallons of jet fuel into local groundwater supplies. According to a recent memo from the water authority to the New Mexico Environment Department, which Fleck posted online, the base’s new strategic plans are “disconnected from the stated goal of protecting drinking water and the aquifer and undermine Water Authority’s ability to ensure the safety and quality of drinking water.”

Furthermore, the memo notes that the updated strategy “implies that the site is moving from an active remediation strategy to a passive remediation strategy….” The authority opposes that “as it extends the damages to water resources and places liabilities on the water users and utilities, while allowing the responsible party to take minimal efforts towards corrective action.”

Read the entire memo here.

NM Environment Review: Copper Flat mine, Dunn’s demand, Los Alamos fee and more

Earlier this month, we wrote about a proposed copper mine near Hillsboro. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a draft Environmental Impact Statement for how the New Mexico Copper Corporation’s  proposed open pit mine, mill, waste rock pile, stockpile and other facilities might affect things like local wildlife, water supplies and vegetation. Many local residents and downstream farmers as well as New Mexico’s two U.S. senators pointed out problems with the analysis. At that time, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission also said that the BLM didn’t adequately consider the project’s impacts on New Mexico’s ability to meet its Rio Grande water delivery requirements to Texas. (A big deal since New Mexico is currently being sued by Texas in the U.S. Supreme Court over those water deliveries.)

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Environment news for the new year: power plants, nuclear contracts, water and Clean Power Plan comment period

I hope readers had a restful break from work, school and yes, media, too. To help catch you up on environment news around New Mexico, I have a few links to share. In December, PNM closed two units at its San Juan Generating Station. Now, the utility wants legislative approval to address how it will recover the money it spent on the plant. According to an AP story by Susan Montoya Bryan:
The utility closed two units at the plant in December as part of an agreement to curb haze-causing pollution in the Four Corners region.

State remains silent on lead poisoning data

In December, Reuters published a map on childhood lead poisoning across the nation. The story and accompanying map, “Off the Charts: The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than Flint,” looked at where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the metal in their blood. Severe lead poisoning can lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children, there is no such thing as a safe exposure to lead, which causes permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders. Even though lead paint and lead additive in gasoline were banned decades ago, the ongoing Flint, Michigan emergency highlighted that lead poisoning is still a problem in the United States.

Air Force: Not enough interest for public KAFB fuel spill board

There isn’t enough community interest in the cleanup of the massive Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill to merit the creation of a Restoration Advisory Board. That’s according to a memo sent out by the U.S. Air Force this Monday. Restoration Advisory Boards, or RABs, allow local governments and citizens to become more involved in environmental restoration issues at U.S. Department of Defense facilities. In the memo, Kirtland Commander Col. Eric Froehlich wrote that last year the executive director of Citizen Action, Dave McCoy, delivered a petition with 80 signatures, asking that the federal government create a RAB related to the jet fuel leak and cleanup.

NMED seeks public comment on plan for KAFB fuel leak

The New Mexico Environment Department and its partners released their 2017 strategic plan for the Kirtland Air Force Base fuel leak in January. Over the course of decades, an estimated 24 million gallons of jet fuel leaked from storage tanks at the base. The leak was first detected in 1999. The strategic plan is only a “reference and planning document” and is not enforceable under any regulatory agencies. But it does include information that the public could find helpful, including conceptual diagrams of the leak, a map showing the locations of monitoring wells and drinking water wells and a timeline for cleanup.

The KAFB jet fuel spill cleanup is speeding up

A massive new weapon has now deployed in the battle to clean up the Kirtland Air Force Base fuel leak: forty thousand pounds of granular activated carbon that is stripping aviation fuel constituents out of the contaminated water. At a cost of $14.2 million, the U.S. Air Force has built a system of three extraction wells, pipes and a 4,000-square-foot, full-scale treatment plant, complete with two metal vessels that each have 20,000 pounds of carbon, that has now cleaned 52 million gallons of water contaminated with ethylene dibromide. The full-scale treatment system became operational on December 31, 2015, and is now pumping and cleaning 400 gallons of water a minute, or 576,000 gallons a day. It has the capacity to treat 800 gallons a minute. The Air Force and the New Mexico Environment Department gave area residents a glimpse of the treatment system during a field trip to Kirtland on April 23.

Air Force faces suit over jet fuel spill

Residents of New Mexico announced their intention to sue the U.S. Air Force over the massive jet fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center announced on Monday that the organization filed a notice of intent to sue the Air Force. Among those in the lawsuit are the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and state senators Cisco McSorley and Mimi Stewart. Four other residents of New Mexico are clients. The notice of intent is required to give those who will be sued 90 days notice of the suit.

DOJ to look into APD’s use of federal training

The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to take a look into the Albuquerque Police Department’s participation with the Department of Energy at at a federal facility. This comes months after Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., voiced concern about the police department’s use of the DOE’s National Training Center, which is located at Kirtland Air Force Base. There, Albuquerque police took part in training and in some cases instructed courses using controversial methods. Grisham released a statement today about the matter, saying that she raised concerns in February to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz about whether Albuquerque police “should have access to the facilities and classes used to train special DOE police forces to protect the nation’s nuclear stockpile.” She mentioned that for a year, Albuquerque police “has been under a consent decree with the DOJ” following the federal agency’s report that the department had in several cases violated law by using excessive force.