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New Mexico officials need $1.2M to study contamination at 2 Air Force bases

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico’s Environment Department needs $1.2 million to study plumes of toxic chemicals seeping into groundwater from two U.S. Air Force bases, a state official said.

Agency Secretary James Kenney said he will request the money from state lawmakers to investigate and learn more about how to contain the contamination from Holloman and Cannon air bases, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

“We know who caused it, and they’re unwilling to take responsibility for it even to identify where it is and isn’t,” Kenney said. “The state is having to take that on now.”

The state sued the Air Force in March after groundwater sampling showed levels in some areas were hundreds of times higher than a federal health advisory limit.

Ffirefighters extinguish a simulated No. 3 engine fire during capability demonstration of the P-34 Rapid Intervention Vehicle at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 21, 2014. (Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya/Air Force)
New Mexico sues US Air Force over groundwater contamination

New Mexico on Tuesday sued the U.S. Air Force over groundwater contamination at two bases, saying the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities.

Testing of public water supplies in Clovis and Alamogordo did not find detectable levels, according to documents provided by the Environment Department.

The lawsuit calls for the Air Force to pay for studying and cleaning up contamination.

The Air Force has sought dismissal of the case and repeatedly declined to comment on the litigation.

It says its response to contamination in New Mexico and elsewhere has been aggressive.

The military has provided alternate water sources for the area cited in the lawsuit. Officials also have been working with regulators to prevent exposure.

Officials say the contamination — linked to a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — was detected last year in groundwater on and near Cannon and Holloman air bases. The chemicals are associated with firefighting foam.

Similar contamination has been found at dozens of military sites across the nation. Growing evidence that exposure can be dangerous has prompted the EPA to consider setting new standards.

There are concerns that the plume from Cannon could endanger nearby dairy farms.

Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap said he was forced to dump thousands of gallons of milk and mull whether he needed to kill off his herd.

Environment and agriculture officials say Schaap’s farm is the only one they’ve found drawing from groundwater with chemical levels above the federal limit.

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