Air Force completes water testing

Three sites show contamination, two need more monitoring


October 24, 2018

CLOVIS — The U.S. Air Force has completed testing 25 private water sites near Cannon Air Force Base.

At three of those sites, the water is not safe to drink, according to Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Two other sites are below the EPA safety threshold, but still need monitoring.

And 20 sites showed no evidence the water is contaminated.

That’s the determination from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, which tested locations in a four-mile space outside Cannon Air Force Base’s southeast corner.

“We looked at 25 sites: three of them were above the (EPA) health advisory,” said Mark Kinkade. “That was one well and two above-ground storage tanks for agricultural and human consumption.”

Two other sites were found to be below the health advisory of 70 parts per trillion of certain Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), but high enough for monitoring.

The remaining 20 were “non-detect,” Kinkade said.

And that does it for AFCEC’s testing of the impact zone, completed in the past month.

The Air Force will continue to monitor the area but isn’t planning additional tests outside that area.

“And I think that helps tighten this window,” Kinkade said. “I think there’s this fear that this stuff’s all over the place. It’s a very narrow window, it’s a very narrow space that we’re looking at...”

The testing was done in response to Cannon’s announcement in August that groundwater monitoring wells on base contained high levels of PFAS.

Kinkade said that of the three sites that tested high, bottled water was requested by only two of the corresponding owners, and the Air Force has provided it.

He declined to identify the precise location of the three sites.

Kinkade said it’s important that area residents realize the only concern for contamination is within the four-mile area the Air Force has tested.

“Please keep in mind that the EPA drinking water advisory is not a regulatory requirement,” he said.

“The Air Force is taking this action because, as members of the communities that support our mission, we share concerns about this nationwide issue.”

He also reminded residents, “This effort is focused on drinking water used for human consumption. The EPA’s health advisory is for drinking water, and does not address agricultural, livestock or groundwater.”

Meanwhile, Clovis and Portales city officials have said municipal drinking water is safe, and Clovis’ water supplier EPCOR said as much in a notice to its customers this week.

The New Mexico Environment Department said last week that the contamination stemmed from CAFB’s previous (and since discontinued) use of a special fire-fighting foam.

“It’s important to note that none of our Clovis production wells fall within the 4-mile radius of the area of concern — the water we deliver is safe to drink,” read the EPCOR notice. “However, given the current situation and out of an abundance of caution, we are collecting new samples at our nearby wells to test for substances that are not typically present in our region’s water.”

Cannon Air Force Base is among about 200 U.S. installations where Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) “may have been released,” occasioning site inspections after the EPA issued a lifetime health advisory on PFAS in 2016, according to a FAQ from AFCEC’s website.

In addition to providing alternative drinking water, the Air Force will “identify interim mitigation options,” to include “maintain(ing) filters on private wells until a long-term alternative can be implemented.”

Another option the Air Force may provide is “connecting your home to a public drinking water supply,” according to its FAQ.


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