KAFB Ramps Up Fuel Spill Cleanup - Albuquerque Journal

KAFB Ramps Up Fuel Spill Cleanup

A Kirtland Air Force Base crew is in the final stages of testing a new machine it hopes will accelerate cleanup of a fuel spill that has contaminated southeast Albuquerque groundwater.

On a concrete pad just north of the base flight line, workers Thursday were testing a garden-shed-sized furnace officials say will begin within the next week to burn off jet fuel sucked from deep under ground.

“It’s the next step in actually cleaning up the contaminants,” said Col. John Kubinec, the base commander.

Officials note that this is not the final remedy for the longstanding problem, but rather an interim measure to remove some fuel from the ground while the Air Force and state regulators wrestle with the long-term problem of cleaning up the decades-old mess.

“We wanted to get after this contamination sooner rather than later,” said John Kieling, head of the New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau.

A new system to suck spilled fuel from beneath Kirtland Air Force Base will expand cleanup efforts, according to base civil engineer Brent Wilson. (pat vasquez-cunningham/journal)

Contractors for the Air Force sank two wells six inches in diameter more than 500 feet into the ground adjacent to the base’s old fuel loading area, where in 1999 the Air Force discovered that an underground pipe had been leaking for decades.

Vacuum units will suck fuel vapors from the layers of soil above the groundwater, and the furnace unit will then burn it off, explained Brent Wilson, Kirtland’s civil engineer.

The fuel has moved through groundwater more than a mile from the spill site. None has been detected in Albuquerque drinking water wells. Test wells near Phil Chacon Park, between the nearest drinking water wells and the known fuel spill area, recently came back clean, suggesting the risk to drinking water is not imminent, according to the state Environment Department.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is in the midst of developing a network of early warning monitoring wells between the fuel spill and the nearest drinking water wells. The water utility is working with the U.S. Geological Survey to determine the best place to put the wells. The agency will pay for the wells but under an agreement with the Air Force, there is a possibility that the Air Force will reimburse the utility for the work, according to John Stomp, the utility’s chief operating officer.

Smaller “soil vapor extraction” units have been at work for years sucking aircraft fuel vapors from the ground, but the new larger system is designed to work more effectively at removing the fuel from the ground, Wilson said.

The cleanup efforts face challenges that officials at the Air Force and the state acknowledge cannot be solved with the systems currently in place. The biggest near-term issue is the fact that the water table in the area has been rising as a result of decreased drinking water pumping from nearby wells run by the water utility.

That rising water table has submerged a layer of jet fuel that had been resting in soil on top of the water table, making cleanup harder. In a December report to the Environment Department, the Air Force acknowledged that fuel layer, now trapped under water, “will be an ongoing source of dissolved groundwater contamination indefinitely.”

The Air Force and Environment Department are in talks about implementing the next cleanup step, which would begin removing some of that fuel submerged in the groundwater layer.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

Home » News » Albuquerque News » KAFB Ramps Up Fuel Spill Cleanup

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

Dogs show their stuff on catwalk
ABQnews Seeker
Sunday's Mutt Strutt gives canines chance ... Sunday's Mutt Strutt gives canines chance to win prizes, get vaccines and microchips
ABQ'S speed cameras go live Wednesday; here's the 411
ABQnews Seeker
No more warnings, $100 fines No more warnings, $100 fines
Scandinavia's leading airline adopts Albuquerque firm's software
ABQnews Seeker
Ultramain will deploy its 'electronic logbook' ... Ultramain will deploy its 'electronic logbook' on all Scandinavian Airlines System ai
APD: Day-drinking preceded man firing at police
ABQnews Seeker
Suspect charged with assault on peace ... Suspect charged with assault on peace officer
APD aviation officer charged with rape
ABQnews Seeker
Airport security guard accuses him of ... Airport security guard accuses him of assault while on duty and in uniform
Eastbound I-40 drivers approaching the Big I will run ...
ABQnews Seeker
Some eastbound Interstate 40 lanes and ... Some eastbound Interstate 40 lanes and ramps will be closed between Sixth and the Big I over the weekend due to roadwork. The state ...
Man fatally shot in SE ABQ
ABQnews Seeker
A man was fatally shot Friday ... A man was fatally shot Friday afternoon in Southeast Albuquerque. Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said officers responded around 2 p.m. to a ...
Incumbent BernCo commissioner faces challenger
ABQnews Seeker
District 5 rep touts record of ... District 5 rep touts record of service
Cancer survivor sings the praises of community
ABQnews Seeker
'We should all be taking care ... 'We should all be taking care of each other,' he says