PFAS Videos

NM Ag Secretary on PFAS

New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte spoke to correspondent Laura Paskus about the military’s contamination of groundwater in New Mexico—and specifically, about how PFAS contamination from firefighting foams used for decades at Cannon Air Force Base have affected Highland Dairy owner Art Schaap, who says he has been dumping milk since 2018, when the U.S. Air Force notified him it had contaminated the water that supplies his home, dairy, and employee housing.

Former Air Force Firefighter Kevin Ferrara Talks PFAS Contamination

Kevin Ferrara, a retired U.S. Air Force firefighter, spoke to correspondent Laura Paskus from his home in Pennsylvania. Ferrara trained at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois, in 1991 and was assigned to Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M. until 1995.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez on Congressional PFAS Efforts

New Mexico's Congresswoman from the Third Congressional District recently stopped by the station to talk about her ongoing efforts to deal with the dangerous PFAS chemicals.

Reporters on the Challenges of Covering PFAS

New Mexico isn’t the only state trying to compel the U.S. military to clean up the waters it has polluted with toxic chemicals known as PFAS. Nationwide, the military has contaminated almost 700 communities. As part of our series, Groundwater War, correspondent Laura Paskus talks with reporters Garret Ellison and Michael Sol Warren, to hear what's happening in Michigan & New Jersey.

The Struggle for PFAS Accountability

In June 2021, New Mexico’s top environment official testified before Congress, asking for federal help when it comes to addressing the cleanup of PFAS from Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force announced a pilot project to test water treatment options at Cannon, a plant that’s expected to begin operations in 2023. Correspondent Laura Paskus checks in with Air Force official Christipher Gierke and also, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney for the latest on what’s happening here in the state with these toxic substances.

NMED Secretary James Kenney on PFAS

New Mexico's environmental regulators learned from the Air Force in 2018 that it had contaminated local waters with PFAS from fire fighting foams used at Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases. Since that time, the state has been sued by the U.S. Department of Defense for trying to compel the military to clean up that pollution--and in June, the Biden administration's DOD called New Mexico's attempts to compel cleanup under one of the military's permits "arbitrary and capricious." Meanwhile, Kenney is also asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for help in setting federal pollution standards for the toxic substances.

Air Force's Christipher Gierke on 'pump and treat' plan

In June, the U.S. Air Force announced a $16.6 million contract to build a pilot water treatment plant at the southeastern corner of Cannon Air Force Base, to test three different options for removing PFAS from the groundwater. If all goes according to plan, the "pump and treat" plant will begin operations in 2023.

Senator Ben Ray Luján Talks PFAS in New Mexico

New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján spoke with New Mexico in Focus correspondent Russell Contreras, who had a couple of questions about PFAS. New Mexico’s Democratic members of Congress have been vocal about the military’s need to address groundwater contamination from Cannon Air Force Base. That contamination is the result of the military's use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) containing PFAS. “We had a lot of frustrations, many of us in New Mexico’s delegation, under the previous administration,” Luján said. “President Trump's Administration was not a willing partner in us moving policies.

Senator Martin Heinrich Talks PFAS in New Mexico

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) talks with Our Land Correspondent Laura Paskus about the latest developments regarding PFAS contamination around several military installations across New Mexico.

Cannon Air Force Base Officials - PFAS Update

Officials from Cannon Air Force Base talk with Groundwater War Correspondent Laura Paskus about the latest on their efforts to identify the extent of PFAS contamination in and around the base near Clovis, NM.

Art Schaap’s Dairy Dilemma

In 2018, the U.S. Air Force revealed that its specialized firefighting foams had poisoned groundwater near Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases with chemicals known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. That included the water Art Schaap was pumping for his home and his dairy in Clovis. Since then, Schaap has been pumping and dumping the milk from his cows at his dairy just outside the base. He’s also suing the government for damage done to his livelihood.

Why Care About PFAS Contamination?

2020 has had its fair share of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic insecurity and political unrest. So, why should New Mexicans care about the PFAS groundwater contamination near a handful of military installations across the state?

What are PFAS?

Human-made per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are found in lots of common items. Their carbon-fluorine bonds make them useful, but also dangerous. What are PFAS and how do they harm humans?

PFAS at Holloman Air Force Base

In November 2018, the Air Force notified the New Mexico Environment Department that tests conducted in late 2017 showed the presence of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in surface and ground water at the base. Samples at Holloman were as high as 1,294,000 parts per trillion, whereas the human health advisory—for a lifetime drinking water exposure to PFAS—is 70 parts per trillion. The state issued a Notice of Violation against the military and called for cleanup, but the U.S. Department of Defense sued the state.

Eastern New Mexico's PFAS Problem

In August 2018, the Air Force revealed there were PFAS in the soils and waters below Cannon Air Force Base. More than two years later, dairy farmers like Art Schaap are still waiting for relief, the drinking water utility in Clovis has shut down drinking water wells, and the military and the state of New Mexico are locked in legal battle over cleanup. Meanwhile, New Mexicans are footing the bill for more water studies to learn where the toxic chemicals are and how they're moving. And as groundwater levels continue to drop—due to decades of overpumping of the Ogallala Aquifer—the federal government is building a pipeline to bring more water to the region from the Canadian River and Ute Lake.

The Military's Legacy in New Mexico

Below Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases, waters are contaminated with toxic PFAS, which the state of New Mexico has tried to compel the military to map and clean. The Pentagon is also studying the possibility of PFAS contamination at Fort Wingate, the Army National Guard armories in Rio Rancho and Roswell, the Army Aviation Support Facility in Santa Fe, and White Sands Missile Range. While these toxic chemicals themselves might be considered new, issues of pollution, accountability, and transparency aren’t novel to the many New Mexico communities still facing the environmental and health consequences of uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing, and other types of pollution from military and weapons-related activities.

PFAS Testing Results in New Mexico

In cooperation with the New Mexico Environment Department, the U.S. Geological Survey tested groundwater and surface water in 16 counties to find where PFAS are present and which specific types of those toxic substances have found their way into the state’s waters. The tests did not reveal alarmingly high levels of the pollutants at any one site. But the presence of PFAS was widespread geographically, including in the Gila, San Juan, Pecos, Canadian, and Animas rivers, as well as the Rio Grande and the Rio Puerco. Given their toxicity—as well as the fact that they persist within waters, soils, and bodies “forever”—the results are notable. Ahead of the study's release, we spoke with Rebecca Roose, director of the Water Protection Division at NMED about the study.

Ask Us Anything - PFAS Contamination in New Mexico

Groundwater War Correspondent Laura Paskus talks to state officials about the ongoing groundwater contamination caused by PFAS chemicals tied to military installations across New Mexico.

Tom Udall Talks PFAS Contamination

Former New Mexico Senator Tom Udall (D) has been a champion of the environment for decades. He ended his long and storied career in Washington D.C. just a few days ago, but he spent some time with correspondent Laura Paskus recently to offer some insight and advice regarding the evolving story of groundwater contamination near at least 7 military installations across the state. This interview is part of @NMPBS's special investigation "Groundwater Wars."

Rep. Deb Haaland Talks PFAS Contamination

Representative Deb Haaland (CD1) has been nominated by President-Elect Joe Biden to head up the Department of the Interior under his administration. Until that nomination is confirmed, Haaland is still the sitting Congresswoman for New Mexico's First Congressional District. In both her current role and potential future role, she says protecting the environment will be a top priority. Rep. Haaland took a few minutes recently to talk with correspondent Laura Paskus about the evolving story of groundwater contamination near at least 7 military installations across the state. This interview is part of @NMPBS's special investigation "Groundwater Wars."