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A bill introduced this week at the Roundhouse would allocate funds for private water well testing in Roosevelt and Curry counties that would screen for toxic chemicals found in a firefighting foam used at the state’s Air Force bases.
Senate Bill 275, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, calls for $700,000 to be appropriated to the New Mexico Environment Department to test private drinking water and agricultural water sources.
Firefighting foam used for decades at Cannon Air Force Base contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Those waterproof chemicals – employed at military sites and used in Teflon and Scotchgard – leaked into groundwater on and near Cannon, the Air Force confirmed in 2018.
“At this point, we don’t know how our citizens have been affected – and we need to know,” Woods said in a statement.
The “forever chemicals” from Cannon have devastated nearby Highland Dairy. Farmer Art Schaap has been unable to sell his cows’ milk or meat ever since his animals tested for excessive levels of the PFAS.
Ingle said it was imperative to “assess the risk of exposure to humans and livestock.”
NMED has already tested public water supplies on and near Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases. Those tests did not find concerning levels of the PFAS.
The New Mexico Department of Health has worked with some private well owners for voluntary tests.
Federal studies show the chemicals can cause low birth weights, high cholesterol and certain cancers.
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.