ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In this morning’s paper, I reported on the latest round of modeling efforts regarding the spread of contamination from Kirtland Air Force Base’s aviation fuel spill.
This is becoming an increasingly tangled story because of the difficulty in modeling the spread of the contamination through Albuquerque’s aquifer. Five hundred feet and more feet beneath our city, the aquifer is a hash of sands, clays and gravels through which water moves at varying speeds. Efforts to simulate the flow of the contamination through that hash are complicated by uncertainties in the data that require the scientists involved to make assumptions about things like “hydraulic conductivity”.
There study mentioned in the story is being done by the consulting firm CH2MHill. We do not have the completed study yet, but a summary of its findings will be presented to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Board Wednesday evening, and the agency distributed the slides from the presentation to the public yesterday afternoon. I’ve highlighted the headline number, the time frame for contamination reaching the nearest well under current pumping rates:
At my request, the ABCWUA also provided me with an independent review of the CH2MHill modeling done for the agency by a second consulting firm, Intera. I’ve highlighted the key finding – the assertion that the modeling result underestimates the “hydraulic conductivity” – essentially the speed at which water (and therefore contamination) moves through the aquifer hash.