the kirtland fuel spill - the Albuquerque Water Utility Authority

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the kirtland fuel spill - the Albuquerque Water Utility Authority
MA
Report to the Community:
P an Inside
d TI :
MEL
INE
THE KIRTLAND FUEL SPILL
Overview
IN 1999 THE U.S. AIR FORCE informed
the New Mexico Environment Department
(NMED) of soil contamination at Kirtland Air
Force Base associated with a leak at a fueling
facility. A few years later, in 2001, the Air Force
determined that the leak, which occurred over a
period of decades, had also contaminated the
groundwater beneath the base.
We now know that the contamination extends
beyond the boundaries of the base in a plume of
dissolved and non-dissolved jet fuel constituents
some 6,500 feet in length and 1,500 feet in width.
The latest official estimate of the quantity of fuel
involved is more than 6 million gallons.
The fuel spill is located in an important part of
Albuquerque’s groundwater aquifer. If left
unaddressed it will threaten a critical drinking
water well field northeast of the base. As a major
stakeholder in the outcome of cleanup operations,
the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility
Authority is working with both the Air Force and
NMED to ensure that the spill is not allowed to
contaminate any of its drinking water wells. This
Report to the Community provides information on
the spill and summarizes the efforts under way to
contain the contamination and eliminate it as a
threat to the aquifer.
WUA KAFB FUEL SPILL TAB_010615.indd 1
Contents:
INSIDE:
Fuel Spill Facts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Fuel Spill Timeline. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Fuel Spill Map . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Latest Air Force Cleanup Plan . . . 3
Water Authority Fully
Engaged in Fuel Spill Fight . . . . 4
Water Authority
Fuel Spill Resolutions. . . . . . . . . 4
1/9/15 3:08 PM
Fuel Spill Facts
ALBUQUERQUE RESIDENTS, PARTICULARLY THOSE living closest to Kirtland Air Force Base, are justifiably
concerned about a jet fuel spill contaminating the groundwater underneath the base and nearby neighborhoods. The spill, which
has drawn the attention of national news outlets, is estimated to be one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Cleanup
efforts by the Air Force, meanwhile, have so far consisted largely of preliminary studies to characterize the extent of the spill
and determine the best way to mitigate it. The Air Force and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), which has
jurisdiction over the cleanup, have held a number of public meetings and presentations on the spill and its environmental
implications. Questions often raised include:
Q. How long has the spill
been going on?
A. Kirtland first reported the
spill to NMED in November
of 1999. A subsequent
investigation revealed a
leak in a bulk fuel facility
that may have originated as
early as the 1950s. The Air
Force has addressed the leak
and no new contamination
from the bulk fuel facility
is occurring, but the aquifer
has nevertheless been
contaminated with several
million gallons of jet fuel.
Q. How large is the spill and
how far has it spread?
A. The contamination plume,
including fuel floating at or
near the top of the water
table as well as fuel that has
dissolved into the aquifer
below and downgradient
(i.e., downstream), is
approximately 6,500 feet
long and 1,500 feet across.
Kirtland’s contractor
currently estimates the
size of the spill at more
than 6 million gallons of
combined aviation gas and jet
propellant.
Q. Has the fuel spill
contaminated any municipal
drinking water wells?
A. No. The fuel spill has yet
to reach any of the Water
Authority’s production wells,
although modeling shows
that one existing well field
may be in the spill’s projected
path. The Water Authority
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is closely monitoring the
situation using its own
sentinel (monitoring) well
located between the spill and
the production wells. This
sentinel well is also regularly
tested to ensure that no water
contaminated by the fuel spill
enters the water supply.
Q. How long do we have
before the spill reaches
drinking water wells?
A. It is estimated that the
fuel spill, if left unchecked,
may reach the nearest
drinking water well in 25
to 40 years. The estimated
arrival times are based on
draft models prepared by Air
Force and U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency contractors.
The U.S. Geological Survey
will be performing aquifer
studies during 2015 that
should provide new data
to give better estimates on
plume movement. In addition,
sentinel wells are being
strategically placed within
the projected pathways of the
plume to ensure detection of
the contaminants before they
get close to any production
wells.
Q. I live in the community
above the Kirtland spill. Is
my water safe to drink?
A. Yes. The production
wells that provide your
household drinking water are
tested on a regular basis for
contaminants related to the
Kirtland spill. No spill-related
contaminants have ever been
found and we will continue
to monitor for them. The
Water Authority Governing
Board passed a resolution
in 2014 that precludes the
Water Authority from serving
water with any detectable
level of ethylene dibromide
(EDB), a toxic component of
jet fuel. Wells in imminent
danger would be shut down
before pollutants could enter
the drinking water system.
By law, that system must
remain compliant with the
strict pollution standards
established in the federal
Safe Drinking Water Act.
Q. How far is the
contamination from the
closest drinking water
production well?
A. The estimated edge of
the fuel plume is a little
under a mile away (about
4,050 feet) from the nearest
well. Additional monitoring
wells are planned and these
will provide a more accurate
estimate of the plume
boundary.
Q. What steps is the Water
Authority taking to ensure
our drinking water is safe?
A. The Water Authority
has installed its own “nest”
of sentinel (monitoring)
wells between the edge of
the contamination plume
and the nearest threatened
drinking water wells, and
also regularly samples
and tests its production
wells in the area for EDB.
To date there have been
no detections of any spillrelated contamination in any
drinking water wells.
Furthermore, the Water
Authority is working with the
Air Force and NMED in the
development of remediation
plans that will protect the
drinking water supply from
contamination (see “Water
Authority Fully Engaged in Fuel
Spill Fight” on Page 4).
The Water Authority Board
in June of this year adopted a
resolution stating it will not
accept any remediation plan
that allows drinking water
production wells to become
contaminated with EDB and
that any such wells would be
taken out of service rather
than be part of a “pump-andtreat” remediation plan.
Q. What does the Air Force
plan to do to remove the
contamination?
A. In September 2014 the
Air Force presented a course
of action to the Water
Authority Governing Board
that would begin removal
of EDB contamination from
the groundwater and draw
it away from the threatened
Ridgecrest well field beginning in the fall of 2015. This
proposal as presented has
received preliminary approval
by NMED and has the Water
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Authority’s support.
Q. What cleanup activities
are occurring now?
A. The Air Force’s corrective
action activities have
included soil removal and
groundwater investigations,
soil vapor extraction, and
interim measures intended
to prevent the contamination
from migrating further
toward drinking water wells.
New monitoring wells are
being drilled now as the first
phase of a system that will
begin removing EDB from the
groundwater this fall.
Q. Why is cleanup taking so
long, how long will it take,
and who is paying for it?
A. It’s true that the only jet
fuel removed to date has
been in the form of vapor
extracted from the soil
above the spill. The liquid
component of the spill
is much more difficult to
address, but the Air Force has
now proposed a system of
extraction wells to draw it out
of the aquifer (and away from
municipal drinking water
wells). Once operational, this
system would take many
years to remove the bulk of
the contamination from the
groundwater. In any event,
the Air Force has expressed
its commitment to the
principle that none of the
costs involved should fall on
the Water Authority or its
ratepayers.
JANUARY 2015
1/9/15 3:08 PM
Air Force’s
Latest Plan for
Spill Cleanup
Extraction Wells Urged
by Water Authority Now
Included in Measures
After an earlier remediation
plan was rejected by the
New Mexico Environment
Department, the Air Force in
September of 2014 presented
a proposal that will directly
attack the underground jet
fuel plume emanating from
Kirtland Air Force Base. The
new plan, supported by the
Water Authority, includes
the installation of up to
eight extraction wells to
prevent further migration
of the plume toward Water
Authority drinking water
wells.
Air Force Deputy Assistant
Secretary Mark A. Correll
presented the new plan at
the Water Authority Board’s
September 17 meeting.
Implementation, pending
final approval by NMED,
is not expected to begin
in earnest until the fall
of 2015.
In a follow-up letter to
the Air Force, the Water
Authority expressed support
for the new approach.
“Obviously we are eager
to see the work get
under way…[and] we are
encouraged that the Air
Force shares our objective
in preventing EDB from
entering the water supply,”
the letter states.
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Water Authority
Fully Engaged in
Fuel Spill Fight
ALTHOUGH ITS WELLS
ARE threatened by the
Kirtland fuel spill, the Water
Authority has no regulatory
jurisdiction over the Air Force
where cleanup is concerned.
Under the federal Resource
Conservation and Recovery
Act, that responsibility is
given to the New Mexico
Environment Department.
The Water Authority is a
“stakeholder” and entitled to
provide input, which it does on
a regular basis; however, it has
no power to force the Air Force
or NMED to incorporate Water
Authority recommendations
into the work plans or final
decisions about how the
remediation will take place.
Despite these limitations, the
Water Authority has taken
concrete action on a number
of fronts.
Since 2008, the Water
Authority has been conducting
its own voluntary monthly
sampling/testing of nearby
drinking water production
wells in the Burton and
Ridgecrest Well Fields. That
includes monthly sampling
for ethylene dibromide (EDB)
and aviation gas/jet fuel
constituents, in addition to the
triennial sampling required
under the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act. To date,
there have been no detections
of contaminants related to the
fuel spill.
Furthermore, the Water
Authority contracted
independently with the U.S.
Geological Survey to install a
sentinel well nest system to
alert the Water Authority
should contamination reach
the zone of the aquifer from
which drinking water is
produced. That “well nest” is
located between the plume
and municipal production
wells. There has been no
detection of spill-related
contaminants at that site.
The Water Authority’s
environmental contractor,
INTERA, and Water Authority
Water Authority Board Vice-Chair Maggie Hart Stebbins addresses reporters at a joint news conference with Kirtland installation
commander Col. Tom Miller and the state environment secretary, Ryan Flynn, regarding progress on the fuel-spill cleanup.
staff have evaluated every
release of data made available
by Kirtland. They have
provided to the Water
Authority, NMED, and Air Force
officials analysis of the data;
documented concerns about
the status of the remediation;
and offered recommendations
for improving the process.
Over the past five years, the
Water Authority board has
heard no fewer than 10 public
presentations on the fuel spill
by Water Authority staff,
Kirtland and its contractor,
and NMED. Those meetings
have been opportunities to
challenge the contractor on
the pace of the cleanup and
bring critical information to
the public.
The Water Authority has also
presented its own cleanup
strategies, aspects of which
have been incorporated into
the latest mitigation plans
from the Air Force. The Water
Authority Board, meanwhile,
has passed a resolution stating
that it will not serve drinking
water with any detectable
levels of EDB and that any
cleanup proposal that allows
contamination to reach
municipal production wells is
unacceptable. The position of
the agency is that the burden
of remediation – and the longterm consequences of the
spill – should not be placed
on Water Authority ratepayers
or on our community’s drought
reserve.
Water Authority Fuel Spill Resolutions
The Water Authority’s governing board, responding to public
concern over the Kirtland fuel spill and its potential effect on
the drinking water supply, has approved four spill-related
resolutions since 2010:
•M
-10-1 (2010): Authorizes Water Authority to hire
independent environmental consultant to evaluate the
remediation planning and groundwater resources in the
vicinity of the plume.
•R
-12-13 (2012): Authorizes an agreement with Kirtland for
Contingency Plan coordination, working with U.S.
Geological Survey on early warning wells, and requests
that the Air Force speed implementation of final remedy.
•R
-12-14 (2013): Authorizes negotiations with Kirtland for
emergency measures to save Albuquerque’s drinking
water, placement of monitoring wells near the Ridgecrest
wells to start evaluation of wellhead treatment,
containment of the light nonaqueous phase liquid plume,
and implementation of remediation technology to address
the long-term contamination of the soils and aquifer.
•R
-14-11 (2014): Declares that Water Authority will not
allow EDB contaminated water at any detectable level to
enter the potable drinking water system, and urges
Kirtland and the Air Force to start aggressive cleanup
immediately.
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This report is brought to you by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, which operates
the water and sewer system for the greater Albuquerque area. The Water Authority is accountable to
its ratepayers through a governing Board consisting of seven elected officials: three Albuquerque City
Councilors, three Bernalillo County Commissioners, and the Mayor of Albuquerque or his designate. Also
serving is a non-voting member from the Village of Los Ranchos.
Water Authority Board
As of December 2014:
Klarissa J. Peña, City Council District 3, Chair
Maggie Hart Stebbins, County Commission
District 3, Vice-Chair
Richard J. Berry, Mayor, City of Albuquerque
Art De La Cruz, County Commission District 2
Rey Garduño, City Council District 6
Trudy E. Jones, City Council District 8
Debbie O’Malley, County Commission District 1
Pablo Rael, Village of Los Rancho, ex officio
Mark S. Sanchez, Executive Director
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How to Reach Us
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 568
Albuquerque, NM 87103-1293
Physical Address:
City/County Government Center
One Civic Plaza NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
www.abcwua.org
JANUARY 2015
1/9/15 3:08 PM