JANUARY 30, 2015

Citizen Action New Mexico submits the following comments for the NMED 2015 Strategy Plan.


The New Mexico Legislature passed House/Senate Joint Memorial (HJM) 13 in the 2014 Legislative Session. HJM 13 asked for an independent task force to examine scientific measures that could be taken for emergency short term and long term strategies for cleaning up the Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) jet fuel spill. The spill threatens Albuquerque municipal wells and is contaminating billions of gallons of water in the aquifer. There is the need for all group inputs to be integrated through an engineering analysis process and oversight review. CB&I has not shown leadership nor has to date the AF. The use of the expertise offered by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science could provide a much needed review of the situation.


Unfortunately, the KAFB jet fuel spill is still not recognized as an emergency although estimates of the fuel spilled range as high as 24,000,000 gallons. Such an independent task force has not been put into place and NMED has opposed its formation arguing that delay would be imposed. There is no independent review process for the 2015 Strategy Plan (Plan). The Plan promise to be “robust” and “aggressive” is short on real action that will actually “collapse” the plume. The term “collapse” is inappropriate and the term “containment” or “removal” should be used. There is not a containment goal set forth by the 2015 Plan and suggested strategies do not support that goal.

In 2012 Citizen Action requested an emergency response to the jet fuel spill either under CERCLA or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to be carried out by either NMED or the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NMED continues to argue that no emergency exists. Yet three years later, not a gallon of jet fuel submerged and dissolved in the aquifer has been removed.


While the strategies are welcome from the standpoint of characterization of the plume, the 2015 Plan is not part of a formal RCRA process. There is the need to complete the RFI and move on to the Corrective Measures Study (CMS) and a Corrective Measures Implementation Plan (CMI) with full public input at each stage.

It is not clear who is making the decisions due to the large number of participants. Consistency in leadership is absent. The NMED has shifted the problem from the Groundwater Protection Bureau to the Hazardous Waste Bureau (HWB) in 2010, then the HWB was put under the Health Division. The leadership for the KAFB spill has shown a lack of sustained consistency caused by the multiple turnover of leaders in the Air Force and NMED. The line of authority for the charge of the RCRA process should be publicly clarified.

A major concern is that no site conceptual plan has been designed to guide the investigation to obtain full knowledge of the full length, width, depth of the plume and the rate the plume is moving. An appropriate remediation plan for dissolved EDB removal cannot be designed due to “data gaps” and lack of a site conceptual model.

The RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) that was to accomplish the fact finding, prior to remedy design, has not been accomplished. The KAFB RFI was so flawed by “data gaps,” while claiming that none existed, that thousands of pages constituting the entire RFI were withdrawn by the Air Force.

While NMED has the authority under RCRA to require full characterization of the EDB plume, it has not exercised that authority. The necessary number of monitoring wells have not been installed for full characterization. The leading edge of the EDB plume remains unknown. Many of the existing monitoring wells have flawed sampling due to the presence of air bubbles that destroy knowledge of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Well screens that were supposed to monitor at the water table are submerged. While 15 well screens are proposed to be installed at the computer generated, suspected edge of the EDB plume, the hydrostratigraphy between the municipal wells and assumed EDB front is not well characterized. The regional hydraulic gradient was used for hydraulic conductivity but is required to be site specific. There is no proof that the 6500 ft long by 1000 ft wide EDB plume can be contained or captured by the technologies proposed in the 2015 Plan.


When the admirable goals of the 2015 Plan are considered against the actual strategies for achieving the plan’s goals, it is evident that the strategies do little if anything to prevent the further advance or containment of the carcinogenic plume of Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) from reaching Albuquerque’s municipal wells. Gantt Charts for the scheduled projects and time completion dates are needed. The absence of coordination and enforcement of deadlines has resulted in years of delay. The recent plan to fine KAFB for missing a December 2014 deadline with an extension for another six months and the possibility of fine reduction is an example. The 2015 Plan has the appearance of a public relations document designed more to quell the fire of public apprehension about contamination of the water supply than to accomplish removal of the dissolved plume of EDB.

  1. Goal 1. The goal for the strategy plan aimed at prevention of the plume of Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) from reaching the municipal wells is appropriate. However, the goal does not identify the protection of the supply well for the Veteran’s Administration well or KAFB supply well #3. Monthly monitoring of the municipal wells does not halt the movement of the EDB plume. Sentinel wells do not stop the EDB plume movement. Quarterly testing of monitoring wells will not stop the EDB movement. Measuring geochemical parameters will not terminate the plume’s forward movement.

  2. Goal 2. Collapse of the plume and pull back to KAFB boundary. The period of the operation of a pilot well is not described. The timeline for an indefinite number of extraction wells is not defined and no number is provided. No obligation is imposed upon the Air Force. The strategies of additional monitoring wells, pipeline granular carbon filtration system, and an infiltration pit will not contain the EDB plume or pull it back. It is unknown how many extraction wells would actually be necessary to accomplish the goal. Rate of travel and the extent of the plume is unknown. The geohydrology is not adequately known. The efficacy of the pumping of the extraction wells for containment of the plume is unknown. How large would the treatment facility need to be? The “exploration of other options” is vague and without description. To consider that a decades old 120 acre plume of contamination will be “collapsed” aggressively by “robust” installation of a pilot extraction well and possibly no others is not credible.

  3. Goal 3. Treatment of the floating and submerged LNAPL. Use of air sparging will create an even larger dissolved plume. The introduction of unknown surfactants, amendments and bacteria are not described and may be counter to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Laboratory tests and field pilot tests are not described in any time frame.

  4. Goal 4. Soil Vapor Extraction. SVE will not stop the dissolved phase plume from spreading.

  5. Goal 5. Public involvement. The public is not included in any of the working groups. The assumption seems to be that no members of the public would be able to comprehend the highly technical issues. Information needs to be summarized and interpreted before it goes to the public. Too much scattered information.


All proposed remedies can result in remobilization unless the remedial strategy is carefully designed to present that. More data is needed to ascertain the costs and the ability to achieve treatment of EDB to the level of 50 parts per trillion.


Air sparging and SVE systems are not effectual for the removal of dissolved EDB. Air sparging may further mobilize EDB in the aquifer. Air sparging will have no immediate effect outside the immediate radius of the wells. Injection of air may stimulate bioremediation of VOCs but will not induce bioremediation of EDB. EDB does not respond to natural attenuation and is less responsive to most remediation methods compared with BTEX or MTBE.


According to the EPA, “Air sparging is generally more applicable to the lighter gasoline constituents (i.e., benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene [BTEX]), because they readily transfer from the dissolved to the gaseous phase. Air sparging is less applicable to diesel fuel and kerosene.” From Exhibit VII-2 -- Air sparging “Cannot be used if free product exists (i.e., any free product must be removed).”

Air sparging is a technology that has been used successfully for VOCs, but while it can break up liquid product it can cause greater mobilization of contaminants. Clean up strategies commonly used for BTEX don’t work well for EDB and DCA. There is a lack of research on how to clean up EDB and DCA on a field scale. Treatment of BTEX may expand EDB and DCA plumes resulting in more area to treat.

Pump and Treat Extraction Wells

Note that the plan states “up to” eight Pump and Treat (P&T) extraction wells but provides no actual agreed number, time period for installation or locations. Installation of one or even up to eight pump and treat extraction wells will not be adequate to contain the EDB plume movement. A single P&T extraction well will remove perhaps 100 gallons per minute of contaminated water that would amount to 800 gallons per minute. The draw for a single Ridgecrest well can be 3000 gallons per minute. Monitoring wells across the width of the EDB plume are insufficient in number to determine where P&T wells should be placed.

Soil Vapor Extraction

Although NMED claims 500,000 gallons of jet fuel removal through Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE), it should be noted that 400,000 gallons of that amount was removed considerably prior to the installation of the new SVE system that has repeatedly malfunctioned and failed to deliver what the Air Force and its contractor claimed. No mass balance for what has been removed or for what remains in the vadose zone is accounted for in the 2015 strategy. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manuals clearly describe that SVE technology is not usable for diesel type fuels in the aquifer. SVE technology cannot clean up the jet fuel trapped beneath the water table.


The RCRA requirements for participation of the public in technical discussions or for updates regarding technical issues and possible solutions has been largely absent. 63 Fed Reg. 56710. While the NMED, Water Utility Authority, KAFB and contractor CB&I hold meetings amongst themselves, there are no minutes or documents recording those discussions that the public may review. The Citizens Advisory Board, while severely compromised by the way it was managed, no longer exists. Public concerns have been raised for the misinformation provided at the CAB meetings. As a result of this, the public has lost confidence and feels the leadership lacks credibility.


The claims by Kirtland and NMED that the municipal water is not contaminated cannot be verified. The well screen lengths for the Ridgecrest supply wells are 800 ft long and pumping is at a rate of nearly 3000 gallons per minute. So there is tremendous dilution of a one liter sample taken from a municipal well when one is looking for contamination in parts per trillion. The municipal wells do not have an annular ring in their boreholes to protect contaminated groundwater flowing in from any level. Monitoring wells have a screen not more than 15 ft long and take very discreet samples. Kirtland has not provided monitoring wells at the location of the supply wells called for by the Water Utility Authority in Resolution 2012-14.

After 15 years since notification of the fuel spill at the fuel off-loading racks, the only actual technologies now proposed, primarily for study purposes, to address the removal of the jet fuel and containment of the fuel spill, still remain to be accomplished:

  • The installation of one (1) pilot extraction well to study pump and treat technology;

  • The installation of air sparging;

  • The installation of a more “robust” soil vapor extraction (SVE) system.

  • Bioremediation studies.


  1. The 2015 Plan does not provide a comprehensive roadmap for protection of human health and the environment. It does not provide a strategy that has a demonstrated basis to prevent the EDB from moving to the municipal wells.

  2. The goals are not achieved in any cognizable time period by the strategies.

  3. The plan appears to lock in remediation for sparging, SVE and P&T in a fashion that is not technically justifiable or coordinated.

  4. The plan does not follow RCRA procedures for characterizing the fuel spill, conducting an adequate RFI, CMS and CMI.

  5. Only one (1) P&T extraction well is obligated under the plan after 15 years, hardly an aggressive strategy.

  6. It is illegal to further contaminate the aquifer. KAFB has already contaminated the aquifer sufficiently.

  7. The plan provides no independent oversight.

  8. The plan provides no genuine public participation.