Public Health New Mexico
1:41 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

New EPA Report Details Threat Of NM Jet Fuel Spill

Current EDB contamination shown in relation to drinking water supply wells. Plume contouring based on 4th quarter 2011 data for the shallow zone.
Current EDB contamination shown in relation to drinking water supply wells. Plume contouring based on 4th quarter 2011 data for the shallow zone.
Credit EPA

A new report from the US Environmental Protection Agency is projecting it could be 30 years before Albuquerque's drinking water wells are contaminated with jet fuel from a decades-old leak at Kirtland Airforce base.  But the impact could be felt much sooner for wells closer to the original contamination site.

Using an advanced modeling system, the study calculated the underground movement of the plume of jet fuel that is trapped in the aquifer underneath southeast Albuquerque.  The plume contains extremely high levels of ethylene dibromide, or EDB, a carcinogen and reproductive toxin.

Scott Ellinger wrote the report and says the well operated by the VA Hospital is in more immanent danger of contamination. "The VA well is very close to the edge of the EDB plume," he explained. "What the model is showing is that there is some lateral expansion of the plume although the bulk movement is to the northeast."

The report projected the plume's movement over the next 75 years, and while impacts to Albuquerque's city drinking water wells are still a few decades out, the report recommends controlling the movement of the plume with an aggressive program of groundwater pumping and treatment.