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

Dairy owner files tort claim over water contamination


February 10, 2019

CLOVIS — As both the state and the county speak out for action from the Air Force regarding the chemical contamination to groundwater supplies from firefighting activities on base, an aggrieved dairy owner is seeking redress through civil action against the manufacturer of the foam used in those firefighting activities.

Art Schaap, who's spoken previously at commission meetings in Curry and Roosevelt counties as to the impacts of the PFOS/PFOA contamination to his dairy and residence, told The News he'd sent out a tort claim last week, but did not specify what damages he sought.

In a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Schaap says the 3M company manufactured aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) containing the hazardous chemicals, that it "knew of these health and environmental hazards for years yet failed to warn the users and other sensitive receptors..."

The state's Environment Department last year announced that chemicals potentially hazardous to human health had leaked into private wells in Clovis from AFFF used in firefighting exercises in past years at Cannon Air Force Base. The Air Force in response offered bottled water to those whose wells were shown to have contaminant levels above a federal health advisory, but said a lack of guidelines on contaminant levels in crops or cattle kept it from addressing issues like those that soon emerged at Schaap's business. Highland Dairy has been obliged to dump thousands of gallons of its milk every day due to their cows' consumption of contaminated water, Schaap said, a situation imperiling his business, his employees and his health.

Base media representatives on Friday told The News they do not comment on pending litigation.

Meanwhile on Tuesday the Curry County commission unanimously passed a resolution requesting action from the Air Force and the departments of defense and homeland security "to abate and prevent the further spread of PFOA, PFOS and other contaminates from the leakage" at the base, stating it prevents "an immediate threat of damage to and/or at a minimum, a detrimental effect on Curry County's agricultural industry, livability, commodity values, land valuation, and more importantly the sustainable water to supply individual County residents..."

That resolution requests another town hall meeting with federal representatives in the next 30 to 45 days.

On Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state's congressional delegation followed a call with the Air Force secretary with a joint statement requesting the Air Force "show much more urgency in responding to the contamination...than they have to date."

That statement recognizes the contamination issue is not restricted to Cannon, as the firefighting foam at issue was in use by the military since the 1970s. The agricultural dimension it presents, however, is relatively unique to the communities lately impacted in eastern New Mexico.


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019