Monday, July 14, 2008

Jet Fuel Leaking from Kirtland to City

from the New Mexico Independent
By Trip Jennings, Marjorie Childress 07/11/2008
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ALBUQUERQUE -- Air force officials said Friday that 12 groundwater wells would be dug over the next year to monitor a long-term leak of jet fuel that has migrated off Kirtland Air Force and into the groundwater table nearby.
The fuel was discovered on the groundwater table in December 2007 after several years of tracking fuel from a leak detected in 1999, according to a Kirtland Air Force Base press release.
"An interim remediation system has also been installed to initiate removal of the fuel from the groundwater," a press release said Friday of the original leak. "The interim remediation system is removing liquid fuel from the groundwater and collecting it at the surface for recycling." Later, air force officials clarified that the fuel contamination had not made it to drinking water wells nearby.
The proposed wells will serve two purposes, said John Pike, chief of natural resources management at Kirtland Air Force Base: to determine the size and extent of the contamination in the groundwater and to ensure that the spreading of the fuel contamination doesn't get to several nearby wells that produce drinking water for the base, the Veteran Affairs Administration and the city of Albuquerque.
Air force officials briefed Albuquerque city officials Friday morning on the development.
City Councilor Rey Garduno, one of the officials briefed, said he was told that the leak is from fuel that hasn't been used since 1974. Garduno said he asked if the leakage had been happening since 1974 and was told that the Airforce "didn't know."
"It's a plume about two blocks wide and five blocks long, from a fuel storage facility near the northern boundary of KAFB," Garduno said.
"They've known about the leak for awhile and have remediated 130,000 gallons so far—which tells us it's quite large," Garduno said. "They hadn't told the public up until now because they thought it was contained within the base. But apparently, it hit clay and began flowing north to northeast, off the base. The neighborhood affected is the Ridgecrest community just south of Gibson."
Kirtland spokesman Michael Kleiman said the fuel migrating north to northeast and past the base boundary is from the same jet fuel leak discovered in 1999. The leak was caused by a corroded pipe leaking fuel. The leak is believed to have started sometime in the past 40 or 50 years, but it is unclear how long the leak continued. It is from this leak that officials have cleaned up 130,000 gallons of fuel vapors found in the soil, he said.
Garduno said he asked air force officials several questions around the groundwater contamination.
"I asked if it was possible it was causing air contamination, by evaporating up to the topsoil and into the air," Garduno said. "They said they hadn't had an opportunity to test the air but assured me that they would conduct those tests."
Kleiman said it was important to note that no contamination of drinking water wells had been discovered. He added that a $2.8 million contract to dig and install the 12 wells should be let by this fall, with drilling starting soon afterward. All 12 wells should be in the ground by next summer, Kleiman said, and there are no public safety concerns at this time.
A Kirtland air force base press release said that the "leaking pipes have been removed from service and the existing fuel distribution system tested and to date, no additional leakage has been detected." The release also said air force officials had been working "very closely with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Groundwater Quality Bureau (GWB) since 1999 "to identify and institute appropriate remedial actions and to conduct further investigation in order to assess the extent of impacts to the groundwater."
The release said Kirtland has closely monitored the base and Veterans Affairs Hospital water production wells and has verified no impacts to these wells.
The Kirtland and Veterans Affairs wells, located approximately 1,000-2,000 feet away from the edge of the known plume, are tested quarterly and the City of Albuquerque’s wells, located approximately 1.5 miles away from the edge of the known plume, are tested annually.
Kirtland AFB will provide periodic updates of its ongoing fuel release investigation and remediation efforts to the New Mexico Environment Department, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, the Veterans Affairs Hospital and any potentially affected neighborhood associations adjacent to the base.
Garduno said that he "asked that we have some very open, public meetings, so that the public could be informed and have their questions answered. They assured me that they would do that in the next two weeks."
In addition to periodic updates, the base will be scheduling public meetings in the upcoming weeks to further discuss current and future remediation efforts. Kirtland will also hold its regularly scheduled public meeting on environmental issues on Oct. 16, 2008, at the Cesar Chavez Community Center. Subject matter experts will be available at all meetings to provide detailed information and answer any questions. Members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend.
"I commend the AFB for coming forward with the information, since it has such a negative aspect to it," Garduno said. "Now we need a very open and public discussion with full assurances that the air force will fully discover the extent of the contamination and its effects, and take responsibility for complete remediation for any contamination from this fuel leak."

1 comment:

michelle meaders said...

Thanks for your involvement in this critical issue.

Did they say how the notice would be given for the meetings? I hope local blogs will pick them up from the newspaper. If needed, I can take flyers to the library, senior center, and community centers in the area.