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Early tests of KAFB fuel spill come up clean

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Initial tests from an Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority well drilled this spring to monitor for contamination from a Kirtland Air Force Base fuel spill have come up clean.

The well, midway between known areas of groundwater contamination and the utility’s nearest southeast Albuquerque drinking water well, showed no signs of the potentially dangerous chemicals that leaked from a Kirtland fuel spill into groundwater and have been moving toward Albuquerque’s drinking water wells, said Rick Shean, the utility’s water quality hydrologist.

The Air Force has drilled groundwater monitoring wells in the area, but water utility officials decided they needed their own independent safety check as a sentinel between the fuel spill and a key part of the metro area’s drinking water supply.

The new well, on Trumbull SE, samples water at depths of 500 feet, 1,000 feet and 1,400 feet below the ground in an effort to determine whether the contamination is being pulled down into the aquifer toward the utility’s Ridgecrest 5 drinking water supply well.

At all depths, samples collected last week came back with no detectable levels of the contaminants found in the spilled fuel, according to the water utility’s test result reports.


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Kirtland officials discovered in 1999 that an underground aviation fuel line had been leaking, possibly for decades. Subsequent investigation found that the fuel – possibly 24 million gallons – had reached Albuquerque groundwater some 500 feet deep and was moving toward drinking water wells serving southeast Albuquerque. The state Environment Department calls it “the most significant groundwater contamination site in New Mexico.”