Sen. Heinrich questions zeal for fuel cleanup - Albuquerque Journal

Sen. Heinrich questions zeal for fuel cleanup

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich on Thursday questioned an Air Force nominee on his commitment to cleaning up the fuel leak on Kirtland Air Force Base if he is confirmed.

Heinrich, a Democratic member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned John Henderson, nominated for assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy, during a hearing in Washington.

Heinrich said that while communication with the public and trust had increased since 2015, “in recent months, that seems to have lost a good deal of its momentum.”

“So I want to ask you, if confirmed, if you would commit to making this fuel spill cleanup at Kirtland Air Force Base a priority,” Heinrich said.

Henderson agreed to prioritize the cleanup effort.

“If confirmed, with regard to Kirtland specifically and any other of these issues with emerging contaminants and cleaning up former defense sites the Air Force may be responsible for, you have my commitment to be personally involved in those processes and to ensure we have relationships based on trust with the members of this committee and … our partners in our community,” Henderson said.

The New Mexico Environment Department sent a letter of deficiency to the Air Force in November after it missed a deadline to produce a work plan to address the department’s concerns about an Air Force data report submitted the previous January.

Heinrich press secretary Vanessa Valdivia said that letter, in part, prompted the senator’s remarks.

A statement from the base said it will continue efforts to communicate with stakeholders and community members.

“We are fully committed to meeting the cleanup obligations under our permit with the New Mexico Environmental Department, and serving our community by protecting drinking water supplies,” the statement said. “Current data shows that efforts to collapse and ultimately eliminate the ethylene di-bromide plume are working and there is no threat to Albuquerque’s drinking water supply.”

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