Read the full article by Theresa Davis (Albuquerque Journal)

“Cleaning up groundwater contamination is slow, complicated and expensive.

And specific remediation at three military sites in New Mexico is also hindered by state budget constraints and limited staff, state Environment Department officials told lawmakers during a virtual briefing last week.

The agency’s Hazardous Waste Bureau is ‘operating on a shoestring,’ with 10 of the bureau’s 35 positions still vacant, said Stephanie Stringer, director of the Resource Protection Division at the New Mexico Environment Department.

NMED estimates the agency needs a $10 million budget increase to be fully functional.

Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, noted during the meeting that slow cleanup is the result of years of New Mexico underfunding its environmental and natural resource agencies.

‘It actually costs us more not to be able to figure out solutions to many of these issues, rather than just investing in these issues,’ Rubio said during the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials committee meeting.

Cleanup of the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill has been ‘stuck’ in the facility investigation phase for years, Stringer said.

‘It’s a lot of scientific data collection and analysis to determine the nature and the extent of the contamination, while also concurrently exploring ideas and pilot tests about how the contamination can be addressed,’ she said.

Kirtland first discovered a pipeline leaking jet fuel into groundwater in 1999. The leak, which occurred over decades, contained ethylene dibromide (EDB).

The Air Force uses extraction wells to pump and treat the plume. Since 2015, cleanup has focused on the area north of Ridgecrest Drive.

The wells had treated more than 808 million gallons of water as of February. The strategy has reduced the EDB plume by 91%…”