It’s estimated that the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill is twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. Officials announced that the first, large scale test of a system designed to clean up the contamination is now underway. The test marks the first time water contaminated with fuel will be pumped out of the ground since the 40 year old spill was discovered in 1999.
The so-called “Step Test” will remove an estimated 70,000 gallons of contaminated water from an aquifer that feeds Albuquerque’s water supply.
The test lasted for about 6 hours on Wednesday, and according to New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn, it’s being conducted to see how pumping affects the aquifer and to see if the system can be used on a larger scale to remediate the spill.
"This clean up is a process," Flynn said. "[Wednesday’s] pumping will not last long but will provide critical information for the next set of pump tests which is part of a much more comprehensive accelerated plan to address the various sources of contamination in the aquifer."
The extracted water will be treated to drinking water quality standards and temporarily stored in mobile tanks.
The contamination came from what officials believe was a leak at an aircraft fuel loading facility on the air force base.