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County, State, Federal Officials Celebrate Beginning Of KAFB Jet Fuel Spill Cleanup Process

02/07/2017

On August 13, 2015, Kirtland Air Force Base hosted an event to mark an important milestone in the efforts to protect Albuquerque's groundwater and remediate contamination from a leak.

The event also recognized the hard work of collaborators in creating solutions to protect Albuquerque's drinking water supply. The Air Force has worked closely with New Mexico's Environment Department, city and state leaders, community members and other stakeholders on cleanup efforts.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the milestone was important because the treatment system is a step in the right direction and "sticks the first dagger right in the heart of the plume."

Prominent figures from the community who spoke at the event included Ryan Flynn, cabinet secretary for NMED; U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, D-NM; Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham, D-NM; Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry; Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins, Bernalillo County Commissioner;  Matthew Padilla, representing Senator Tom Udall's office; and Col. Eric Froehlich, 377th Air Base Wing commander.

Here are Commissioner Hart Stebbins’ remarks from the day:

"It is my privilege to serve as the Bernalillo County Commissioner representing this district and Kirtland Air Force Base, and as Chair of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. 

The Water Utility has many missions.  But chief among them is the delivery of safe, clean drinking water to a majority of the residents of Bernalillo County.  That is always a huge responsibility but recent drought conditions here in New Mexico, have made that job even harder.

We take our responsibility very seriously.  So you can imagine our concern about the Bulk Facility Fuels (BFF) spill and its potential impact on our water supply.  Our nearest well is less than a mile from the known edge of the fuel plume, in the heart of one of the aquifer’s most productive areas. 

For us, and for the people of Bernalillo County, this has always had the potential to be more than just a spill.  It had the potential to have a huge impact on our drinking water supply and the economic future and quality of life of this community as a whole.

From our point of view, the only acceptable solution was the drilling of remediation wells to remove the fuel from the aquifer…before it could contaminate any of our wells. 

I have to admit that there were times early on in our work on this issue when I wondered if we would actually live to see a milestone like this one we’re highlighting today . . .

But then, I began to see the makings of a solution – a perfect storm of sorts:

First, Governor Martinez appointed Ryan Flynn as Secretary of the NM Environment Department.  Secretary Flynn from the very beginning recognized the critical importance of this issue and brought a new focus and commitment to the remediation effort.  He brought the Water Utility to the table and considered and valued the input of our staff and our experts. 

I saw a concerted effort from our Federal delegation – Senator Martin Heinrich  and Senator Tom Udall and  our Congresswoman, Michelle Lujan Grisham, who made this a top priority and dedicated the resources of their offices to getting the federal government to make this remediation a priority.

I saw that this issue had the personal attention of Secretary James, and Mark Correll – Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, who both understood community concerns about the threat of the Bulk Fuels Facility contamination.

We had a new Kirtland Base Commander, Colonel Tom Miller, who made a public commitment to taking aggressive action.

And I saw a growing awareness in the community of this situation and what it might mean for our future.

So it WAS a perfect storm, all the players with a key role in the remediation process were starting to move on this.

Today, after years of work, we are seeing action on this front.  This is a result of the leadership demonstrated by the people who are here today.  We owe thanks to them and to their respective staffs, be they from the city, the state, the military, or congressional offices.

On behalf of the Water Authority, I especially wish to thank Dr. Adria Bodour, AFCEC Project Lead, who has championed the remediation plan and is now executing it.  Her expertise and commitment to this project have greatly accelerated the pace of the cleanup and her ability to articulate to our concerned community what the Air Force is doing, has begun to change the public attitude from one of distrust to one of cautious optimism.

And I want to thank our water utility staff and my colleagues on Water Authority Board, including City Councilor Rey Garduño and Mayor Berry, for supporting the work to move this issue forward.  On behalf of our ratepayers, this organization has devoted time, resources, employees and dollars to this issue from day one, to make sure our water resources were protected. 

To the people of this neighborhood, I say thank you for your patience. For dealing with the many uncertainties that this contamination has presented and for tolerating the drilling’s dust and disruption. 

Yes, we are moving forward.  And years from now, I believe we will look back on this day and remember it for what it is:  A milestone event.  An event in which we mark the beginning of a long but necessary process.   And I sincerely thank everyone who had a role in making this a reality – both on behalf of the people I represent and on a heartfelt, personal level as a parent of four children who I hope will be able to make this their permanent home."

 

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