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

By Kathleen Stinson
Staff writer 

Base hosts third virtual PFAS meeting

 

Last updated 9/18/2021 at 4:09pm



Cannon Air Force Base hosted its third virtual meeting Wednesday to update the community on its progress to determine whether contaminants called Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have leaked off-base into the area’s water system is an unacceptable risk by the government’s definition.

Cannon officials said the Air Force is legally required to conduct the investigation in a way that begins with an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis Pilot Study. The study is preliminary to a full scale remedial investigation into the contaminants.

The meeting began with an introduction of the new 27th Special Operations Wing Commander, Col. Terence Taylor, who said the base is committed to remaining responsive to the community on this issue. With 500 military families living on the base, Taylor said there is a “vested interest.”

Air Force Civil Engineering Center Remedial Project Manager Christipher Gierke said the base has to first complete the EE/CA, which is information gathering. Currently underway is a treatablility study, which is part of the EE/CA. This will show the best way to treat the water. Testing the aquifer is another part of this process.

The Air Force is currently contacting owners of some off-base wells to get their permission to sample the water.

During the question and answer session, one man asked if data from the water sampling being done by the New Mexico Department of the Environment is going to be shared with the base. An Air Force spokesman said it is.

A spokesman for the Air Force said before it only had the power to sample the water for human consumption. Now they can also sample agricultural wells.

Once the Air Force has completed the pilot study, it can conduct a full scale investigation to capture anything “coming off the base,” a spokesman said.

A member of the community asked: “What has been put in place to keep the containment from spreading?”

The News asked the Air Force to clarify the answer to the question as follows: “The Department of the Air Force (DAF) has replaced all legacy C8 Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) at Cannon Air Force Base with a C6 AFFF that meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. Additionally, the DAF has taken measures to prevent accidental discharge of foam from emergency vehicles, and DAF no longer utilize AFFF in training. Any C6 AFFF used for emergency situations is containerized and disposed in accordance with governing regulations.

“The DAF is acting as quickly as possible while following the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process. The Remedial Investigation (RI) will determine the nature and extent or rather exactly where and how far the PFAS impact has travel so we can identify the best course of action to respond to the PFAS impacts. In the interim, we are ensuring alternative safe drinking water is available. An Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) assessment will be completed to evaluate data collected during the RI and consider possible interim responses that can be implemented while the investigation continues.”

One man commented that people in the community have to install filters for drinking water at their own expense.

The next quarterly update meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 15.

 
 

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