Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Mexico v US military

What happens if the federal government pollutes your state and the federal government does absolutely nothing to clean it up? The likely answer is to try to use the state's environmental law enforcement agency to attempt to push the massive federal government into action. Is this fair? Of course not, but that seems to be the case in New Mexico, where the groundwater that provides the drinking water to Albuquerque and many other locales is contaminated by a massive fuel spill from nearby Kirtland Air Force base, a multi-million-gallon spill that was first made public in the last millennium and had been occurring for decades, according to environmental reports.

New Mexico is getting angry about the endless foot-dragging by the Air Force as the feds mull over the situation, thinking out loud about maybe experimenting with a form of bacteria that will consume the petroleum. After 15 years, however, the New Mexico Environment Department has just ordered the Air Force to have a start-up in place and operating using proven technology that simply pumps air into the migrating groundwater, which captures a great deal of the petroleum and brings it upward, where it can be cleaned off over time. The NMED has mandated that this system be installed and operating by June 30 or the Air Force will face fines upwards of $10,000 per day. Small experimental fixes are not enough. With an estimated 6-24 million gallons of fuel in the migrating groundwater (possibly more than twice the Exxon Valdez spill), a much more robust and fast method is required.

DoD is not used to losing battles over the environmental impacts of its bases or its contracting industries. We'll be watching to see if a state has any rights to force the feds to clean up their mess. Lucky thing for Albuquerque that it has Kirtland AFB nearby to protect it, eh?

Fleck, John (29 April 2014). State raises specter of fines in Kirtland fuel cleanup.

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