The groundwater extraction and treatment system was installed by the Air Force three years ago to collapse ethylene dibromide (EDB) contamination plume and pull it back towards Kirtland Air Force Base.
EDB is a toxic additive that was used in aviation gasoline. Recent monitoring data strongly suggest that the EDB plume footprint and contaminant concentrations are decreasing in the extraction area. More than 445 million gallons of groundwater have been extracted and purified.
“The fact that we are seeing evidence of plume collapse three years into this project is consistent with modeling simulations that were run during the design of this treatment system,” Environment Secretary Butch Tongate said. “It will take many more years of extraction and treatment to fully collapse the plume, but these test results provide the strongest evidence yet that we are on the right path.”
Kirtland Air Force also has been conducting a field experiment stimulating natural groundwater bacteria to biodegrade the EDB. The bacteria were fed lactose (a sugar to encourage bacterial growth) and nutrients. Initial results show biodegradation of EDB.
“These tests confirm that the aquifer contains bacteria that are capable of biodegrading EDB,” NMED Chief Scientist Dennis McQuillan said. “Based on this success, we will conduct additional bio-stimulation experiments, and it may not be necessary to inject specialized bacteria into the aquifer.”