New Mexico to delineate PFAS contamination from two Air Force bases

Laura Paskus

November 3, 2020

Last week, the state of New Mexico released a request for proposals on a contract to investigate PFAS contamination from Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases.  

We mentioned these plans a while back, after the New Mexico State Legislature allocated $1 million to study where PFAS pollution has spread and another $100,000 to create and implement a well testing program in Curry and Roosevelt counties. 

By sampling public and private wells near both bases and drilling new monitoring wells to collect and analyze groundwater and soil samples, the project will help the state understand where the pollution has spread and better predict how and where it’s moving next 

The RFP notes: “With a continued lack of action from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), New Mexico, through this RFP, is pursuing innovative environmental strategies to protect its citizens, which will also support continued actions to compel the DoD to cover all costs associated with study and remediation of its contamination.” 

Bloomberg Law reports today that “more state and federal action on PFAS in groundwater is likely under a Biden administration, but is also possible under another Trump administration.”  

In Wisconsin, the Natural Resources Board has approved an emergency rule for treating PFAS contamination from firefighting foam testing facilities. If approved by the state Legislature, the rule will clarify and set standards created under a 2019 bill which prohibited companies that manufacture firefighting foams containing PFAS from testing their products without “proper containment and treatment.”  

According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  

Darsi Foss, the administrator of the environmental management division for the DNR, said the rule recognizes the fact that proper disposal of PFAS needs to be standard because the chemicals can't just be tossed in a bin and forgotten or washed away.   

“The prohibitions established by this law recognize that our landfills, and especially our wastewater treatment systems are not designed to immobilize or destroy PFAS,” she said. “It is a highly mobile substance that does not degrade in the environment.” 

Michigan Radio reports that PFOS—perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, one type of PFAS—is showing up in fish collected from 125 contaminated sites in the state. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy tested for 11 different chemicals; PFOS were found within 92% of the fish sampled. According to the story: 

The highest concentration was 10,000 parts-per-billion in a fish caught near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. 

The average concentration of PFOS in fish was 80 parts-per-billion. 

 300 parts-per-billion triggers the “Do Not Eat” advisory.  

And...don’t eat the deer, muskrats, frogs, mollusks, turtles and crayfish near Oscoda Township, where former Wurtsmith Air Force Base caused widespread PFAS contamination. With hunting season about to start, the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services and Natural Resources are reminding people of the various Do Not Eat advisories that have been enacted 

In New York, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes is asking state officials to deny a permit application for a solid waste transfer stationThe transfer station would hold up to 22 tons of garbage but lacks the ability to remove PFAS from the water that leaches out of the trash. Opponents fear PFAS could then reach nearby Cayuga Lake, which supplies drinking water to 40,000 to 90,000 people, according to a story in the Finger Lake Times 

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, PFAS has been found in 55 private drinking water wells—12 miles from the Chemours plant that we’ve mentioned in previous weekly dispatchesUnder a consent order with the state, the chemical manufacturer is required to test private wells for PFAS, including GenX, and reduce the amount of PFAS it is releasing into the air and waterChemours manufactures GenX, which is used in non-stick cookwareand also generates other PFAS as part of its operations.  

According to the story in The Fayetteville Observer: “Each time GenX or other compounds are found at certain levels, Chemours has to test wells that are a fourth of a mile farther from the plant.” 

In California, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency sued a dozen companies, including Raytheon Technologies, Chemours, DuPont and 3M Co., for their role in introducing PFAS into the water supply.  As Tammy Murga reports in The Signal: 

The lawsuit alleges that the companies have known “for decades” the dangers of PFAS and failed to provide a warning on the effects they have on human health and the environment.  

 “(The companies) sold their products anyway,” Scott Summy, a shareholder from Baron & Budd P.C., the law firm representing SCV Water, said in a statement. “As a result, many water providers have to now deal with the resulting problems. These cases are intended to shift some of the responsibility for paying for the costs of dealing with these contaminants away from the ratepayers and onto the responsible parties.” 

 Officials with DuPont and 3M said in emails to The Signal Thursday they are “vigorously defending” their positions that they acted responsibly. 

Taking a look at that lawsuit, The National Law Review notes that as states set drinking water limits for PFAS—which the federal government has so far failed to do—more utilities will try to figure out how to comply with those limits.  

A new, peer-reviewed paper in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism studied hundreds of women exposed to PFAS when they were pregnant and found they have a higher risk for poor cardiometabolic health three years later 

And at The Conversation, North Carolina State University’s Carol Kwiatkowski writes about a strategy for protecting the public from PFAS: that is, reducing PFAS risks at their source 

On PBS’s NOVA, Shantal Riley takes a closer look at PFAS, why they’re so dangerous, and how they’ve affected people who live in Colorado Springs near Peterson Air Force Base. 

If you’ve been affected by PFAS contamination in your community here in New Mexico, call our tip line at (505) 433-7242. To read more coverage of PFAS in New Mexico visit “Groundwater War: New Mexico’s Toxic Threat,” which includes a timeline of events and studies on PFAS.

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