A few significant things have happened since we last wrote about the decades-old Kirtland Air Force jet fuel leak that’s threatening to contaminate a major municipal water well in the city of Albuquerque that serves neighborhoods near the base and some parts of Ridgecrest.
New Mexico Environment Department officials estimate the underground spill of toxic jet fuel could be as much as 8 million gallons. Jet fuel is a known human carcinogen.
On May 10, the state Environment Department denied the Air Force’s request for 45 extra days to submit a report detailing its plans for dealing with the spill.
As John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported, the state will require the Air Force to submit a report on July 7 showing how far the contamination has spread. Two other reports will be due on June 22.
“Urgent action needs to be taken to address this threat to Albuquerque’s drinking water supply,” James Bearzi of the New Mexico Environment Department wrote in response to the Air Force request for a 45-day extension. The state department has complained about the Air Force’s pattern of frequently missed deadlines in the past.
On May 20, the Air Force held a meeting with residents of the area near the spill to discuss its plans for cleaning up the spill and controlling its spread. Air Force commander Col. Rob Maness told KOAT-TV that the Air Force promises to do more to stop the spread of fuel to municipal wells. The Air Force has already spent $10 million on the leak.
And on May 12, New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman voiced his support for holding the Air Force responsible for cleaning up the spill and expressed concern about the possibility of it contaminating Albuquerque’s underground water resources.
“Clearly the Air Force is responsible for cleaning up that spill, and I will support whatever is determined to be the right level of resources to get that done,” Bingaman told a New Mexico reporter in an interview last week. The interview can be found on Bingaman’s Senate web site.
The senior senator from New Mexico is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He took the question about the Kirtland spill amidst a number of questions from New Mexico reporters about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Kirtland jet fuel spill is now firmly on the radar screen of all the entities needed to make a real difference. Let’s hope all the increased media attention and public concern inspires the state to show even more muscle in forcing the Air Force to take responsibility for the leak and keep it from reaching our drinking water.