Kirtland Says More Info Needed Before Cleanup

Play audio:


Contamination from the fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base was discovered in 1999. The plume has spread underneath Albuquerque to within a mile of the Ridgecrest well No. 5, one of the city’s most productive drinking water wells.
—Credit: 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.

Share this story