Legislation Passed to Address Kirtland Fuel Spill

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton


SANTA FE–The New Mexico Congressional delegation is being asked to fund and assemble an independent task force of experts to address the Kirtland Air Force Base bulk fuel spill cleanup—the largest toxic spill into a public water supply in U.S. history (Associated Press 2012). 

House Consumer and Public Affairs Substitute for House Joint Memorial 13, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Bernalillo-19), was passed Friday in the House of Representatives by a vote of 39-16. 

The findings are to be reported by November 2014 to the congressional delegation, the appropriate legislative committee, the Albuquerque City Council, the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners, and the ABQ-Bernalillo County water utility authority. 

The leak is an estimated 24 million gallons of jet fuel (more than twice the Exxon-Valdez spill). There is still insufficient understanding of the size, depth, and rate of the expansion of the plume.

“The purpose of this House Joint Memorial 13 is to help achieve the process of preserving and protecting the safety of our drinking water,” Stapleton said. “We need to act with urgency before our water supply becomes contaminated.”

The exact history of the spill is unknown, however, a bulk fuel facility was operated on the base from 1953 to 1999 where bulk shipments of fuel were received and individual fuel trucks were filled. The spill was discovered in 1992. 

Kirtland Air Force Base removed the facility from service due to line leakage and subsequent investigations showed that leaked fuel had reached the ground water table. In 2007, fuel was detected in the ground water off the air force base and vapor extraction units were installed. 

No comprehensive remediation plan has been put forth to remove the liquid portion of the jet fuel and the dissolved plume of EDB (ethylene dibromide) from Albuquerque’s drinking aquifer, Stapleton said. HJM 13 CS mandates the development of a cleanup and remediation plan for the KAFB spill.