The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Dairy owner airs water concerns


December 19, 2018

Jamie Cushman

Highland Dairy owner Art Schaap discusses the effects of the water contamination at his business located near Cannon Air Force Base.

CLOVIS - The owner of a local dairy on Tuesday addressed the Curry County Commission about issues his business is facing as a result of water contamination near Cannon Air Force Base.

Art Schaap, owner of Highland Dairy, said seven of his 13 wells have been affected by the PFOS/PFOA contamination discovered near the base.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoiac Acid (PFOA) were present in a firefighting foam widely used by the military since the 1970s and subsequently determined to pose risks to human health.

Schaap said he cannot sell any milk or beef from his cows, drastically affecting his business, in addition to the health concerns of the contaminants.

"I don't know what it's going to do to my health, and my kids' health, what the future looks like, I have no idea. But if you read the statistics on PFOS, it's not good," Schaap said.

Schaap said he, his family and 40 employees have been exposed to the contaminants. He said testing showed Schaap himself had eight to 10 times the healthy level of PFOS in his blood.

"I'm here in desperation; I don't know what to do," Schaap said. "I'm a recipient of their poison in my water. They ruined my business and they're going to ruin my life."

Chairman Ben McDaniel said the commission is working on the water contamination issue and he appreciated Schaap's comments.

"I can't imagine what this is like for you; I'm sorry for your frustration for sure," McDaniel said.

Lt. Russell Gheesling from Cannon Air Force Base first addressed the commission during public input, but left before Schaap's comments.

Gheesling said 85 additional wells around the perimeter of the base have recently been inspected, with just one showing a presence of the contaminants.

Cannon's chief of media operations could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. The base previously referred questions regarding the dairy's contamination to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, which has conducted testing of the private wells located near the bases.

Officials with the AFCEC told The News last month that the organization does not have the fiscal authority to devote funds to reimbursing residents for contamination to crops, cows or other foods.

Also at Tuesday's meeting (all votes 5-0):

• The commission selected five projects totaling about $3.4 million to request capital outlay funding from the Legislature at its upcoming session.

The projects include repairs to Curry Roads 13, G and AD totaling just over $1 million, a $250,000 re-roof of the La Casa Family Health Center, $165,00 in parking lot improvements at the Curry County Events Center, about $1.4 million to renovate the Curry County Courthouse and $575,000 to demolish structures and build a new parking lot on Main Street in Clovis.

• The commission approved a $100,000 grant to be put toward the purchase of a fire truck for the Pleasant Hill Fire Department.

• The commission approved a new lease agreement with the United States Postal Services for the post office located in the county administration building.

Previously $100 per month, the USPS will pay the county about $16,000 a month from 2020 to 2025 and about $18,000 a month from 2025 to 2030 if the agreement is extended.

• The commission approved the notice of intent to adopt an ordinance granting a franchise to Grady Wind Energy LLC, which would pay the county about $9,000 each year.

• Commissioner Angelina Baca announced her intention to seek an appointment to the commission from the incoming governor.

Baca had been running unopposed to keep her seat in November's election when she was removed from the ballot over the summer due to her failure to file a financial form.

Baca said she subsequently filed the form and owes it to her constituents who voted for her in the primary to seek the appointment.

• Alex Archuleta, who had been the interim general manager at the Curry County Events Center, announced Jeff Blake has been hired for the position.

Blake is an Eastern New Mexico University graduate who spent the past eight years as the director of the university center at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.

Archuleta said Blake would be tasked with finding more sponsors for the venue and improving its general upkeep.

The commission also approved a $371,386 operating budget for the venue in 2019, up slightly from $341,494 in 2018.


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