Decades-Old Fuel Spill Could Threaten Albuquerque's Drinking Water
By Elaine Baumgartel
May 23, 2012

A fuel spill at an Air Force base in New Mexico may be three times larger than originally estimated.

New data suggests there could be 24 million gallons of fuel in the soil and water table at Kirtland Air Force Base. The leak from an underground pipe built in the 1950s wasn't discovered until 1999.

Now, the decades-old plume is 500 feet underground, headed towards several City of Albuquerque drinking water wells.

Water resource advocates say city officials will need to build a water treatment plant to clean the water. But Tom Berardinelli, Chief of Staff for the 377th Air Base Wing at Kirtland, says the new estimate changes nothing

“An amount, although it may seem interesting, is speculative,” Berardinelli said. “There is no real way of measuring what's there. And knowing an amount does absolutely nothing to contribute to how this is remediated.”

Military officials are expanding a web of test wells and beefing up a system that burns off the vapor from the fuel.