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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are we in danger of having our drinking water contaminated? Are our gardens in danger of being contaminated?

    No, all cleanup efforts are focused to preventing any further migration of the plume toward the drinking well supply wells. Drinking water supply wells are tested monthly and continue to show no contamination. Gardening: first of all, fuel from the BFF did NOT leak at the ground surface off-base. Additionally, the greatest root depth for any plant is between 50-150ft. Off-base, fuel-related contaminants are 450ft plus below the ground surface. Given this information, there is no risk for gardening.

  2. What are the Air Force’s plans if the EDB contamination does reach the water wells off base, in the residential areas?

    The Air Force and Water Authority have collaborated on a contingency plan to shut down any wells in proximity to the EDB plume should fuel-related compounds be identified at levels near the screening standards.

  3. What will the AF do to help people if their homes lose property value?

    The Air Force has a claim process property owners can follow if they have damage as a result of activities related to the BFF release. Please see the information provided on the Project Information, Construction Activities page.

  4. Are there other contaminants that are involved other than the EDB? Can these contaminants actually be completely removed from the groundwater?

    Yes, benzene is the other primary contaminant of concern. Both jet fuels and gasoline are produced from crude petroleum and are composed of a large number of chemicals. The most common contaminants of concern which drive risk and remedy selection are benzenes, toluenes, ethylbenzenes, and xylenes, commonly referred to as BTEX. Historically, leaded gasoline fuels, whether used in automobiles or for aviation purposes (i,e., AvGas) contained ethylene dibromide (EDB) as an anti-knock agent. Jet propellant fuels, on the other hand, are derived from kerosene, do not contain lead and therefore do not contain EDB. EDB is the chemical found at the leading edge of this plume.

    Yes, these fuel-related contaminants can be completely removed from the groundwater. Granular activated carbon (GAC) filters are being used to remove these contaminants from the extracted groundwater and this is confirmed through water sampling where the results are compared to drinking water standards. This approach is one that has been used for decades and is a proven approach to remove these types of contaminants.

  5. How can we really be certain that there is no EDB in the drinking water production wells?

    Current monitoring data and historical fuel-activity records are used to determine any exposure or risks to humans and based on this information, there is no current risk to residents in the neighborhoods. Potential risk is identified by evaluating possible contaminant pathways to people and the environment. A risk assessment evaluates site data against possible pathways. If necessary, risk is re‐evaluated as site conditions change. The RFI and Risk assessment have been submitted to NMED this year and describe how there is no risk to human health. Monitoring and sentinel wells are monitored and sampled regularly to ensure that no contaminants have reached drinking water wells.

  6. Is monitoring well data available online?

    Yes, quarterly reports are on the Kirtland Jet Fuel Remediation Website, as well as other relevant documents about the interim measures being implemented for the project. There is also a link on the Kirtland Air Force Base Website, Environmental page where an electronic version of the administrative record is available. All project documents are also available on NMED’s website and a project-specific website.

  7. How effective is the monitoring being done? How do we know that EDB is not going around a well and “missing” detection?

    We know through the soil cores from drilling the deep wells where the bottom of the plume is. Given this information, along with groundwater flow data and the monitoring data collected every quarter and the monthly sampling of the drinking water supply wells, that there are no detections of EDB or other fuel contaminants.

  8. Why are you not going after the fuel/LNAPL if it’s the source of the EDB? Does that fuel continue to contribute to the concentration of EDB in the water?

    Contaminated soil (4,822 tons) in the fueling, or source, area above screening levels, was removed in phases beginning in 1999 with the last removal in 2015. The SVE operated from 2015 to address the contaminants in the soil from the LNAPL.

    In 2015, three extraction wells were installed and the contaminated groundwater is pumped to a groundwater treatment system located on-Base designed to remove the fuel-related contaminants. Additionally, there are pilot tests and other interim measures that have removed or are helping to identify the most effective way to address any remaining fuel material.

  9. I don’t understand the boundaries between agencies – who’s in charge of what and who triggers what sort of action is to be taken? Who has the lead?

    The primary responsible agencies for this project are the Air Force and NMED. NMED is the lead for this work under the RCRA Hazardous Waste Permit issued to Kirtland AFB by NMED, and the regulator identified as enforcing the remediation efforts. Primacy for this oversight was granted/transferred from the EPA to NMED; however, the EPA remains involved in an advisory capacity.

    How much is the Air Force prepared to spend to clean up this fuel plume, to include the cost of new wells or well-head treatment?

    The Air Force remains committed to seeing this cleanup to its end and covering the necessary and appropriate costs associated with achieving this goal. The AF has a strong cleanup program and receives funding on a yearly basis through Congressional appropriations. The Air Force is required to fund its cleanup projects such as the fuel leak at Kirtland AFB. For the fuel plume at Kirtland, the Air Force is required to clean up the fuel plume to drinking water standards. To this end, the Air Force continues working to put in place systems designed to contain the fuel plume and prevent impacts to the water production wells.

  10. How does leaked fuel behave underground?

    The fuel will take the path of least resistance through the dry soil and unsaturated ‘vadose’ zone (soil area above the water table) until it reaches the water table. Fuel contaminants in the unsaturated zone exist in four phases: 1) vapor in the pore spaces, 2) attached to subsurface solids, 3) dissolved in water, or 4) undissolved as non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPL).